Los Angeles County is home to more than ten million people, but only a few hundred county residents have been able to acquire a concealed carry license, thanks to the sheriff’s policy requiring applicants to demonstrate “good cause” for carrying a firearm. Self-defense isn’t seen as a legitimate reason in LA County. Neither is the fact that the Second Amendment states that the “right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” With open carry of firearms banned across the state, a concealed carry license is the only way for residents to legally exercise their right to bear arms, and it’s a right denied to almost everyone inside the county borders.
That could soon change, if we’re to believe Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who announced today that far more approvals will be coming in the near future.
NEW: In a live stream just now, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he expects to begin increasing the amount of concealed carry permits he issues by as much as 400%. CCWs are notoriously difficult to obtain in LA. @FOXLA
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) June 24, 2020
The Daily Bulletin newspaper highlighted in 2016 just how bad the problem is in Los Angeles County in a feature about police chiefs in independent cities in the county handing over their authority to issue licenses to the sheriff’s office.
There are currently only 220 active concealed carry permits issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff and only 50 to 60 of those were issued to residents, according to Nishida. In addition to the standard concealed carry licenses that residents apply for, police chiefs and county sheriffs issue three other kinds of licenses to judges, reserve police officers and people who work but do not live in the issuing authority’s jurisdiction.
“It’s virtually impossible for the average person to get a permit,” said La Verne resident Keith Reeves, whose concealed carry application to the city police was denied for a lack of “good cause.”
Reeves, a university professor and an ordained minister, said he hasn’t applied with the county sheriff because he doubts his application would be approved.
“I just know the reputation of the county, and it’s pretty futile,” he said.
By 2018, according to the Fresno Bee, there were 424 concealed carry licenses active in Los Angeles County. If only about one quarter of the active licenses in 2016 were possessed by regular citizens, we can estimate that in 2018, about 100 average Joes and Janes in the county had been able to acquire their carry license.
Even if Sheriff Villanueva comes through on his promise, a 400% increase in license approvals likely won’t help gun owners like Keith Reeves are still likely to find themselves denied. Let’s assume that the number of concealed carry licenses possessed by average citizens in Los Angeles County has continued to grow at the same pace it did between 2016 and 2018. We’re likely looking at somewhere around 200 regular citizens who’ve obtained a concealed carry license.
A 400% increase in approvals means that 800 citizens in a county of 10-million would be approved to exercise their right to bear arms. That’s still nowhere near close to meeting the demand. Sure, the county might pad its numbers by including judges, reserve police officers and and other “special” people, but even a fourfold increase from 600 total permits would be less than 2,500 licenses in the biggest metropolitan area in the country, and I guarantee there are far more than 2,500 residents of Los Angeles County would would like to be able to exercise their right to bear arms for self-defense.
In neighboring Orange County, for example, as of 2018 there were more than 12,000 concealed carry licenses for a population about a third the size of Los Angeles County. Kern County, to the north of Los Angeles County, had nearly 9,000 active concealed carry licenses with a population around 900,000.
In the counties surround Los Angeles that do view self-defense as a valid reason to carry a firearm, about 4 out of every 1,000 residents have a concealed carry license. If Los Angeles County had the same ratio, it would be home to about 40,000 concealed carry licensees, not the 400 or so reported in 2018. Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s announcement of a potential 400% increase doesn’t go nearly far enough, in other words. If the sheriff is serious about reforming the concealed carry licensing in his office, the answer is simple: drop the good cause requirement and move to a shall-issue system. When the average citizen in Los Angeles County can exercise their right to bear arms, Villanueva can take a bow. Wednesday’s pledge isn’t even close to getting us to the finish line, and is likely far more of a political two-step than an actual step forward for the Second Amendment rights of the gun owners in the county.