Back in February, the 9th Circuit in California ruled that the state’s concealed-carry law was unconstitutional, a ruling which was hailed by the NRA and other pro-gun groups as a “major victory” in the campaign to extend the 2nd-Amendment ownership rights defined in the 2008 Heller vs. DC decision to carrying a gun outside the home. But while the judicial panel’s initial decision was stayed pending appeal to the full 9th Circuit (whose action may then result in the SCOTUS finally deciding whether the 2nd Amendment extends to CCW,) the court let stand the part of the law which allows the sheriff in each California county to set concealed-carry rules. Most of California’s counties, including San Diego, which challenged the current law, have decided to wait and see how the whole legal issue plays itself out. But Orange County began accepting CCW applications immediately after the 9th Circuit ruling and has been, according to County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, “overwhelmed” with the demand.
Notwithstanding the fact that crime in Orange County has declined by 20% over the last ten years, it appears that most of the demand for concealed-carry permits is being driven by the conviction that walking around with a gun will make people feel more safe. At least this is what the Orange County Sheriff says, and she should know since she has hired 15 part-time workers to handle the administrative load and the waiting time for the required interview that must precede issuance of the permit is now out to 30 months.
Wait a minute! A “required” interview before the license is issued? I thought that the 9th Circuit’s panel found California’s CCW law unconstitutional because it was only granted if an applicant could convince the police that carrying a concealed weapon was a necessity for business reasons or documented proof of the need for personal defense. And when Orange County started accepting CCW applications, the Orange County Register stated that a permit would now be issued if a county resident simply stated that they needed to carry a gun for “personal safety,” without requiring any documentation of this claim at all.
So I decided to do what nobody ever seems to take the trouble to do whenever a law is passed regarding guns, namely, I actually read the text that defines the Orange County application process itself. And the process is as follows. In addition to the usual background check, fingerprints and let’s not forget the $200 fee, the applicant must also provide “documentation” that “good cause” exists for the license based on the following criteria: (1). “Specific evidence that there has been or is likely to be an attempt on the part of a second party to do great bodily harm to the applicant;” (2). “The nature of the business or occupation of the applicant is such that it is subject to high personal risk and/or criminal attack;” (3). “The occupation or business of the applicant is such that no means of protection, security of risk avoidance can mitigate the risk other than the carrying of a concealed firearm.”
There are a couple of more issuance criteria listed on the sheriff’s website but I think you get the point. Sheriff Hutchens may say that she’s going to issue a license to everyone who says they want one, but Orange County is not about to deprive their law enforcement authorities from having the last word on who shall and who shall not walk around with a gun. Which is hardly the same thing as saying that anyone who wants CCW will get it just by showing up at the police department with a clean background and a $200 check.
If the argument over whether the 2nd Amendment covers CCW ever gets to SCOTUS and if gun-nut Scalia writes another decision which cites the new California law as a valid protection of gun-ownership rights, the Brady Campaign and Shannon Watts will be able to arouse their followers over this NRA threat to safety, but the truth is that the law doesn’t really change things at all. But what laws actually say never seems to concern either side in the gun debate. It’s a lot more fun to yell and scream than to sit down and figure out what, if anything, should really be done.