It’s not exactly shocking that the number of concealed carry applications is soaring in Sacramento County, California. After all, the same thing is true from coast-to-coast at the moment. What is both surprising and troubling, however, is the fact that the majority of these new applicants are being denied, according to local news station CBS 13.
Concealed weapon permits are issued by county sheriffs, and some chose not to issue any at all. The State Auditor raised concerns in 2017 about inconsistent CCW programs among some of the largest counties that do issue the permits.
For instance, while you must show “good cause” to carry a firearm, the interpretation of “good cause” varies greatly by county.
Data obtained by CBS13 reveals so far this year, Sacramento County has denied roughly 70% of CCW applications while Placer County has denied fewer than 5% of the processed applications.
The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department would not reveal the reason for the vast number of denials stating, “When a CCW is denied, we do not give a specific reason as it creates an opportunity for people to craft their applications around screen out criteria.”
As the news station correctly points out, California’s concealed carry system gives sheriffs broad leeway to approve or deny permits based on their subjective determination of “good cause.” In counties like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Clara, your right of self-defense and your right to bear arms aren’t considered good enough reasons to obtain a concealed carry license, but in Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones has been pretty good about recognizing the right. In fact, here’s how the anti-gun news outlet The Trace described Jones in a piece from 2016.
When Jones took office in 2011, Sacramento had roughly 350 permit holders. Since then, the number has skyrocketed to more than 8,000. Jones says he approves more than 90 percent of applicants and Jones has boasted about processing more than 100 applications in a single day.
Jones has been very vocal about his support for concealed carry, telling a local news station back in 2016 that he believed more people should be carrying.
“People face the same dangers that I do. They have a desire to protect themselves and their family,” said Sheriff Jones. “The flavor of the country has changed over the last year or two, and it is not so much about being a victim of a mugging or getting money out of the ATM. Now, you have the real threat of terrorism.”
Dr. Garen Wintemute is an emergency room doctor at UC Davis and a researcher on gun violence. He says the country changed in 2012 beginning with Aurora and then Sandy Hook and San Bernardino where “public mass shootings” have become more frequent.
But he says while those shootings create fear, the fear is more perception than reality.
“Mass shootings are uncommon, they account for less than 1-percent of all firearm deaths in the United States,” said Dr. Wintemute. “But mass shootings have the potential of changing the character of American public life.”
Change is exactly what is happening to the makeup of Sacramento County under Sheriff Jones where 90 percent of all CCW applications are approved by his office.
“I wish it was more,” said Jones.
What’s changed since then? According to the Fresno Bee, Sacramento County had one of the highest concealed carry rates in the state as of last July with about 5.3 permits per 1,000 residents. Applications in the county this year are up about 26% compared to last year, but far more license applications are now being rejected. If the Sheriff’s Office is now suddenly denying 70% of applications when just a few years ago 90% were being approved, that raises legitimate questions about the policies in place and what exactly has changed.
It’s troubling to see Sacramento County reject so many applicants, particularly at a time when there’s been a surge in interest from so many Americans who are embracing their right to bear arms. Are these new applicants screwing up the paperwork, or has the sheriff had a change of heart when it comes to wanting law-abiding residents to be able to protect themselves with a firearm?
I’ve reached out to Sheriff Jones’ office with an invite to join me on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co. to talk about the increase in applications as well the denials on the part of his office, and I hope that we’ll be able to sit down for a discussion soon about why more Sacramentans (Sacramentians?) are being rejected when the vast majority of them have previously been able to obtain the permit necessary to exercise their constitutional right.
In the meantime, I also spoke with Rick Travis of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, who provided a couple of possible explanations. First, Travis says that many sheriffs departments are dealing with funding issues brought on by decreased tax revenue thanks to the coronavirus closures as well as the defund police movement. That’s leading to longer delays in some counties in terms of processing, but Travis thinks that the reason for the increased numbers of denials has more to do with the state’s onerous gun control laws.
In order to successfully complete a concealed carry application, you have to undergo range time with the gun you want to carry, and Travis says it’s been difficult to find the space at many ranges for applicants to qualify. As a result, Travis believes that many applicants are submitting incomplete or inaccurate forms, which will result in a denial. Others may not be privy to the fact that California doesn’t recognize the Second Amendment as a valid reason to obtain a license, so if they can’t articulate “good cause” besides stating “it’s my right,” they’re also likely going to be turned away.
Of course many of these issues would disappear if California’s concealed carry permitting process removed the subjectivity and almost unlimited discretion enjoyed by sheriffs, but that’s another story. Hopefully we’ll be able to talk with Sheriff Scott Jones in the near future about the current issues that even pro-2A sheriffs are facing in the state, but in the meantime, those applying for their concealed handgun permit need to make sure that they’ve got everything in order before they begin the process in order to increase their chances of approval.