New California Sheriff Reveals "Shall Issue" Policy For Concealed Carry

(Amber Ross/Yakima Police Department via AP)

Shasta County is one of the largest counties in California, with about three times the square miles as the state of Rhode Island. But with fewer than 200,000 residents spread out across the sprawling northern California locale, it can be difficult for police to quickly respond to service calls, even those that are a top priority.

That may be one reason why the new sheriff in Shasta County is reassuring residents that when it comes to their right of self-defense, he’s on their side. Michael Johnson was sworn in as the county’s 23rd sheriff just a few days ago, and in his first public remarks as the top law enforcement agency in the county he broached the topic of the right to carry.

The sheriff said his most-asked question is where he stands with the Second Amendment. He assured everyone he’s a firm supporter of the right to bear arms and the ability to have concealed-carry weapons permits (CCWs).

“I am absolutely a Second Amendment supporter. I will not revoke, I will not scale down CCWs,” he said. “As long as you’re legally able to possess a firearm and you go through the proper checklist, you are trained good enough, I will support that and you will still get your CCWs.”

I’m sure that’s a relief, and as Johnson implied with his remarks, he’s going to keep an existing policy in place rather than make any kind of changes that would restrict the right to carry. According to a 2019 story by the Fresno Bee, Shasta County has had one of the highest rates of carry licenses per capita, with about 45 carry permits issued for every 1,000 residents. There were more than 8,000 active carry permits in Shasta County in 2019, with a population around 180,000. Compare that to Los Angeles County, with a population of nearly 10-million and just 424 active permits as of two years ago.

The disparity in those statistics isn’t because Los Angelenos are less likely to want to carry in self-defense, but because the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office requires applicants to show some sort of justifiable need or “good cause” to carry a firearm beyond their Second Amendment rights and their right of self-defense. L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has spoken publicly about issuing more permits in recent months, but as of June there were still fewer than 1,000 active permits in all of Los Angeles County.

That’s about double the number of active permits compared to 2019, but it’s still far below what we’d see if the county had a “shall issue” policy of it’s own. In fact, if L.A. County issued concealed handgun permits at the same rate as Shasta County does, there would be about 450,000 residents in Los Angeles who could legally carry a firearm in self-defense, compared to the 1,000 or so individuals who can do so at the moment.

So yes, it’s very good news that Shasta County’s new sheriff is keeping the current “shall issue” standard in place. It would be even better, however, if more populous counties like Los Angeles, San Diego, Alameda, and San Francisco would do the same. Because they insist on maintaining their “may issue” system, millions of California residents are being denied their right to bear arms in self-defense. You shouldn’t have to move to a rural area to exercise a constitutionally-protected right, but thanks to California’s screwy gun control laws, the counties where most people actually reside are also the places least likely to recognize their right to protect themselves outside of their home.