Concealed carry applications soaring (and stacking up) in Bay Area

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Even though California lawmakers are sure to take a swipe at the right to bear arms when they return to Sacramento to kick off the 2023 legislative session, gun owners in one of the state’s most hostile environments for the Second Amendment are still flocking to their local sheriff’s office to apply for their concealed handgun permit.

The high demand has left many departments unable to keep up, including in Contra Costa County, where sheriff’s department spokesman Jimmy Lee says the surge in applications has been overwhelming.

Prior to this decision, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office would typically receive about 20 concealed carry weapon applications each month, which would be processed by one employee, Lee said.

Since the decision in June, the Sheriff’s Office has been receiving “several hundred” applications a month and now has a backlog of over 1,000 applications.

The reason why applications were so low before the Bruen decision is simple; folks knew they stood little chance of being approved. Contra Costa County had about 500 active concealed handgun permits before the Supreme Court decision was handed down; an absurdly small number considering more than 1-million people call the county home. And some gun owners in the county say that even after the Bruen decision, it doesn’t feel like much has changed.

Scores of hopeful applicants recently resorted to Reddit and online forums to complain about the situation in Contra Costa, while arguing that officials there should do more to hasten the application process. Many complained that they’ve received few responses from sheriff’s offices to even the most basic inquiries about the process.
“There’s a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding with the actual process because the information on the sheriff’s website is so vague,” said Alex Urikh, 21, of Walnut Creek. He accused the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office of “dragging their feet,” while lamenting that other gun owners across the state had experienced similar delays.
Other Bay Area-counties are seeing similar delays. The East Bay Times reports that there are currently about 1,500 applications waiting to be processed in Alameda County, where only 300 residents possessed a carry permit before the Bruen decision was handed down. Lt. Ray Kelly with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office says the department is now considering letting local police departments handle applications in the hopes they might be processed in a more timely fashion.
Simply put, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have the resources to handle the crushing demand for permits, Kelly said. Of the roughly 1,500 applications received by the agency, only about a couple dozen have been granted due to the paperwork and bureaucratic difficulty of processing each request, he said.
“We’ve never seen this number before,” said Kelly, adding that other law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area have encountered similar increases. “It’s a massive change in the way we do business, based on the Supreme Court ruling.”
In contrast, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it plans to hire a sergeant and at least one more specialist to help process applications. Exactly when that backlog will begin to ease, however, remains unclear. The agency did not respond to messages seeking how many permits it had approved since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.

SCOTUS warned in the Bruen decision that while “shall-issue” licensing laws were constitutional, if they resulted in lengthy delays for approvals or tacked on outrageously high fees in an attempt to dissuade citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights then those policies could rightfully be called into question. Given the glacial pace of issuing gun permits in these California counties (San Francisco, for example, has received just 65 carry applications since June but has yet to approve a single one), it might be time to haul these officials into court to force them to comply with the Bruen decision. A right delayed is a right denied, and there are thousands of Californians right now who are being deprived of a fundamental civil right because of the toxic mix of government bureaucracy and anti-gun ideology.