Can Security Guards Carry Guns in California

March 13, 2023

Can security guard carry guns

An alarming increase in gun violence has led many business and property owners to wonder if investing in armed security guards is a good idea. But when considering armed, private security guards, you come across the question of whether security guards can carry guns in California or if the state and California gun laws even allow it. 

During the late 1960s, California had little to no restrictions on carrying loaded weapons in public. But this changed over the years and the California we live in today has a well-earned reputation for being tough on guns. Today, security guards can carry guns only during duty hours if their job requires it. 

And before they can do so, the guards are required to comply with specific firearm training requirements set out by California exposed firearm permit rules. Even after extensive training, guards cannot carry a loaded weapon outside their place of work. This article highlights all the do’s and don’ts for security guards and the weapons they can carry. 

In this article:

  • Requirements For a Firearm Permit
  • Can Security Guards Use Deadly Force
  • Liabilities and Responsibilities of Security Guards Carrying Firearms
  • Alternatives to Firearms
  • FAQs

California laws originally do not allow security guards to carry firearms. The law states:

“A person is prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm unless the person is authorized by law to carry a concealed firearm.”

However, there are a few exceptions to this – security guards working in correctional facilities, airports, for a private security company, or if they reasonably suspect that someone might commit a crime while they’re on duty. 

First and foremost, only a properly certified security guard is allowed to undertake a course and obtain a firearm permit. If you’re interested to apply for a firearm permit, you should be a certified security guard in California. To become a security guard, you should be:

  • Above the age of 18
  • Pass a detailed background history check performed by the FBI
  • Submit all the required documents and go through all identity verifications
  • Take a training course and pass an examination with a 100% score and present the Certificate of Completion issued by the company providing this training

If you comply with all of the above and obtain the status of a certified security guard, only then can you apply to carry a firearm as a part of your job to protect. Security guards must obtain the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services or BSIS license to carry weapons on the job. 

This includes going through an assessment process for BSIS Firearms Permit to establish that the individual applying has the necessary skills to carry and operate a weapon. According to the requirements, self-control and good judgment are some primary qualities that a security guard must possess. 

Below are some requirements for obtaining a firearm permit for security guards in California. The applicant:

  • Should have permanent resident status or be a U.S. citizen.
  • Must at least be 21 years of age.
  • Must not be banned from possessing or owning any firearm by State or Federal Law. 
  • Must complete a criminal history background check by the FBI and California DOJ (Department of Justice).
  • Should pass a fourteen-hour BSIS-certified Exposed Firearm Permit course on carrying and using firearms and pass the exam once the course ends. This training course must cover:
    • Firearms terminology
    • Emergency procedures
    • Moral and legal aspects
    • Weapon handling and shooting fundamentals
  • Pay the application fee upon selection. The fee ranges from $25 to $1,125
  • Should pass an assessment set out by the Bureau, if applicable, within six months after the application date. Check out the details of this assessment on the BSIS firearm assessment page. 

The permit obtained does not authorize a security guard to carry a concealed weapon. If your job requires you to carry a concealed weapon, you need to obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit (CCW) issued by local authorities. Here’s a video guide that can further clarify your concerns. 

NOTE: Firearms qualifications card expires after two years from the date of issuance. 

Can Security Guards Use Deadly Force?

What is Deadly Force

Deadly force is defined as the application of intense power by hands, impact tools, or with a firearm. A force that a reasonable person considers causing serious bodily harm or death.

What is Considered Objectively Reasonable 

Under any threat, the officer or security guard’s evaluation of the situation is important. They will assess the situation in the totality of the circumstances to their knowledge and determine the necessity for using force and the level of force. 

The guard or officer’s decision is also based on what a reasonably prudent officer would do under a similar or same situation.  

When is Deadly Force Justified

A security guard is authorized to use deadly force in case of an immediate threat of death or great bodily injury. 

The use of deadly force should be reasonably justified and appropriate, and for that, the perpetrator must meet the following criteria:

  • They have the means to harm the security guard in any sense
  • They have the motive to cause harm
  • The threat that they will attack is imminent

If a person does not meet all three of these criteria, a security guard cannot use deadly force and justify it for some other reason. 

Note that using deadly force is taught as an absolute last resort during firearm training. A certified security guard is authorized to use deadly force when one or more of these circumstances occur:

  • Protection and/or Self-defence: To protect others or themselves from what is reasonably believed to be in imminent danger of serious harm or death.
  • Prevent an Escape: If the security guard has probable cause to believe that a fleeing subject has or intends to commit a felony that involves serious bodily harm or death. And if not apprehended, there’s an imminent risk that the subject will cause death or bodily injury to the guard or another person.
  • Guarding Nuclear Material/Weapons/Explosive Devices: To prevent sabotage, theft, or unauthorized control of a nuclear weapon, nuclear explosive device, or special nuclear material. 

Additional Considerations Regarding Use of Deadly Force

If the circumstances make a security guard reasonably consider it necessary to use force, the following precautions must be observed:

  • Warning shots are prohibited.
  • Always give a warning before a shot is fired
  • Never discharge firearms at a moving vehicle
  • Chokehold is prohibited unless deadly force is authorized

Responsibilities and Risks of Security Guards Carrying Firearms

Security guards that carry firearms as a part of their job feel more in control, but this comes with great responsibility. Let’s take a look at the liabilities, risks, and duties of an armed security guard in California:


  • Protection: The main duty of an armed security guard is to protect everyone around him, be it a place or a person. It’s important that the guard has completed their proper training from a reputable organization and has all the necessary certifications and licenses to practice as an armed guard. 
  • Appropriate Use of Weaponry: The guard is responsible for only using the gun he/she is carrying when it’s justified and all other non-violent alternatives have been exhausted. The guard should use their risk management and conflict resolution skills learned during training before considering the use of their weapons. 
  • Maintaining Weapon: The security guard is responsible to ensure that their weapon is well maintained and secure at all times. The guns should be in excellent working conditions, otherwise, they might become a legal liability and pose serious legal and financial consequences.
  • Staying Up to Date: Armed guards should attend refresher training for weapon use if they qualify for it. 
  • Provide Support: Once the security guard has safely mitigated a danger and the area is safe, he or she shall provide the appropriate medical care that they’re trained to give to anyone who needs it. This includes first aid, calling for transportation, or requesting emergency medical services from the nearest facility. 
  • Submitting Incident Reports: In case of an encounter, the security guard is accountable for completing and submitting incident reports to the department and complying with all the security protocols involved.   
  • Risk of Death: In presence of a weapon, there is always a risk of death. The security guard, perpetrator, or an innocent bystander could get hurt. This is why thorough and professional training is a prerequisite to becoming an armed security guard. 

Risks and Liabilities

  • Carry Firearm Without a Permit: Carrying a gun without having the required training and certification is illegal and will lead to the apprehension of the guard attempting to do so. 
  • Use of Excessive Force: Guards cannot use force to harm anyone so much that it inflicts permanent damage, provided it’s not one of those circumstances where deadly force is authorized. In a situation where they have to use force, it should immediately be discontinued when the resistance stops or when things get under control.
  • Make an Arrest: Security guards carrying guns are not allowed to arrest in any case. Similarly, they cannot carry out or take part in any investigative or detective work. 

Alternatives to Carrying Firearms

You don’t always need killer force for protection. There are some effective non-lethal self-defense options you can opt for. Let’s go over a few alternatives to carrying guns for security guards in California:


The security guards can use de-escalation techniques and conflict resolution skills consistent with their training when possible. This is typically only possible when such delay will not compromise the safety of another person or the guard and won’t result in injury or destruction. 

The security guard should make the individual submit to verbal commands as long as they don’t suspect the subject will escape, destroy evidence, or commit a crime. 

Use Less-Lethal Force

When de-escalation techniques don’t work, or are not appropriate, a security guard might use less-lethal force to control a situation. certified security guard is authorized to use less-lethal, department-approved techniques and equipment to:

  • Restrain an actively resistant and non-compliant individual who is evading arrest
  • Protect others and themselves from immediate physical harm
  • Bring an unlawful situation under control


If forcible action is necessary for a situation, batons are an effective option. These devices have the power to slow a violent individual down without using extreme physical force. The purpose of batons is to halt an intruder. 

But sometimes, you also need a baton permit to use one. Security guards must complete eight hours of training from an approved instructor. 

Taser or Stun Gun

Tasers are another useful non-violent tool to deter potentially harmful individuals. Tasers and stun guns send electric shock waves when it comes in contact with the subject within 15 feet of you. 

Can Security Guards Carry Guns in California – Conclusion

Security guards are important for preventing criminal activity and offering security to people and places. They keep a close eye on suspicious happenings around them and are trained to take the appropriate action to ensure public safety.

They are required to carry a gun to ensure a high level of security in certain areas, but they have certain legal limitations that they must comply with when on duty. If you’re on the lookout for armed security guards, you can always reach out to our experts at Professional Security Guard Inc. for help.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can security guards carry guns off-duty in California?

No, security guards are prohibited from carrying a gun when they are off duty.

How long does it take to get a firearm permit in California?

It may take 15 to 20 days for the application to process if you don’t have a criminal background and all documentation you provided is correct. After it’s processed and approved, the guard card takes an additional two weeks to arrive in the mail.

What type of guns can security guards carry in California?

Security guards can carry handguns such as Ruger-P series, a revolver with rotating cylinders and cartridges.

Related Posts