Mixed Reaction To LA County Sheriff's Pledge To Increase Concealed Carry Licenses

If Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was hoping to receive applause from gun owners with his announcement that the sheriff’s office plans on increasing the number of concealed carry licenses issued by as much as 400%, he must be feeling the sting of disappointment this weekend. The response from the Second Amendment community has been decidedly muted, with some offering cautious notes of optimism while others have rejected the sheriff’s move as a political stunt.

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, tells Bearing Arms that Villanueva’s announcement is a “good start.”

Los Angeles County has historically been politically hostile to gun owners and issued almost no licenses to carry, so this change is long overdue. This Sheriff is finally acknowledging the threats to their safety that all citizens face, and the inability of his deputies to make folks safe. Particularly now, when the Sheriff’s Department is overworked, underfunded, and unappreciated, the Sheriff can see that his deputies, no matter how hard they try, cannot protect county residents in these increasingly dangerous times. Under the circumstances, residents need to be empowered to protect themselves. This is a good start.

Unfortunately, while the sheriff may be recognizing that his department has left citizens unable to protect themselves outside of their home, Villanueva has also made it clear that he’s not changing the standard for issuing licenses, and self-defense is still not seen as a valid reason to obtain a license in Los Angeles County.

“Remember, ‘good cause’ is not ‘shall issue,’” the sheriff said. “We’re trying to make the system user friendly and if you’re eligible to receive it because you’ve established a good cause we don’t want to interfere with that process.”

As the Washington Free Beacon‘s Stephen Gutowski reported this week, in 2017 an audit of the concealed carry licenses revealed that fewer than ten civilians in Los Angeles County possess a concealed carry license. Given the population in the county, residents literally have a one-in-a-million chance at obtaining a license to carry a handgun. Brandon Combs of the Firearms Policy Council says even a 400% increase doesn’t mean much when the numbers are so low to begin with.

“It’s offensive that this corrupt, anti-gun rights sheriff thinks that’s adequate or a substantive improvement,” he told the Free Beacon. “Los Angeles County should have tens to hundreds of thousands of licensees based on its population—400 percent of nearly nothing is still nearly nothing.”

“It’s probably just going to result in more perks for his political donors,” Combs said. “Sheriff Flip-Flop should be run out of town and replaced by someone who respects the Constitution.”

Villanueva may very well end up being run out of town, though I’m not optimistic that his replacement would respect the Constitution any more than the sheriff has in the past. There are growing calls for Villanueva to resign or be replaced as part of efforts to overhaul the criminal justice system in the county. One recent editorial in West Hollywood called on local agencies who contract with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office to pull those contracts if Villanueva doesn’t step down.

Neither the City of West Hollywood nor the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has the power to force Villanueva to resign. But what the West Hollywood City Council can and should do is ask Mayor Lindsey Horvath, who is president of the California Contract Cities Association, to press the CCCA’s Los Angeles County members to join West Hollywood in demanding Villanueva’s resignation.  The City Council also should push the hospitals, clinics, community colleges, and the MTA to make the same demand. If Villanueva won’t step down, all of the organizations and governments that contract with the Sheriff’s Department must let it know that those lucrative contracts are in jeopardy.

Our City Council is never reluctant to take stands on national and international issues that have no impact on local life and on which it has no influence  (e.g. the Mueller Report and the dog meat market in Yulin, China). But maybe, at its July 6 meeting, the West Hollywood City Council will actually speak up and out about a man whose evident disregard for public safety and flagrant violation of the rules makes him unfit to run the Sheriff’s Department. I’m looking forward to seeing that on the Council’s agenda.

If Sheriff Villanueva is looking for some political allies, it’s going to take more than halfhearted statements about increasing the number of concealed carry licenses for residents by a few dozen. A change in policy to recognize self-defense as “good cause” to carry might do the trick, but for now I don’t think the sheriff’s announcement has earned him the support he needs to hang on to his job.