Carry applications soar after "pay-to-play" CA sheriff resigns

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File

It’s a new day in Santa Clara County, California… kind of. For years, the county saw only a handful of residents apply for their concealed carry license, in large part because few applicants were ever deemed to have the “good cause” required to be approved. But while the average Joe was unable to exercise his right to bear arms in self-defense, the former sheriff of Santa Clara County was also abusing the discretionary authority of her office to grant rarely-issued permits to campaign donors and other VIPs in the community.


Sheriff Laurie Smith ended up resigning her position shortly before a jury found her guilty of corruption and official misconduct, and new sheriff Bob Jonsen has sought to distance the department from the concealed carry scandal. Between Smith’s departure and the end to California’s “good cause” requirement, it looks like gun owners are feeling more confident in their ability to finally acquire a carry license of their own.

Spokesperson Sgt. Michael Low said the sheriff’s office received 32 concealed carry weapons applications from Jan. 1 to May 31 last year. That number jumped dramatically from June through the end of 2022 after the court ruling, with 378 applications. In 2021, the office only received 32 applications the entire year. The department launched an online application portal in February and within a month received hundreds of requests.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Bob Jonsen said he anticipated the increase. Prior to the ruling, the county and California at large generally took a “may issue” approach to approving permits, he said. Now, the county is more in line with a “shall issue” approach, he said.

“It’s a natural progression for people to say, ‘Hey, why not?’ and throw in an application,” Jonsen told San José Spotlight. “It is what it is now, and that will make it a little more challenging to deny (permits) because that ‘good cause’ requirement is no longer in place.”


Jonsen may be trying to separate himself from the scandalous behavior of his predecessor, but unfortunately it sounds like he has the same anti-2A mentality as Smith. His job isn’t to deny permits, but to make sure that responsible gun owners can exercise their fundamental right to bear arms in self-defense.

Jonsen said the county implemented alternatives to replace the previous “good cause” measure, including a required psychological exam through a psychologist used by the sheriff’s office and more gun training hours. He said current county policy also prohibits guns in places that primarily sell alcohol.

Concealed weapons are also not allowed in schools, airports, courthouses and federal buildings. Applicants need to go through a criminal background check and interview with the sheriff’s office, according to the county sheriff’s website.

It’s nice that Jonsen has publicly stated his intention to get around the Supreme Court’s ruling by imposing other subjective standards for would-be gun owners. That will come in handy if and when an organization like the California Rifle & Pistol Association files a lawsuit over the post-Bruen permitting process. CRPA head C.D. “Chuck” Michel has previously spoken with Bearing Arms about the group’s “CCW Reckoning” project to force counties to comply with the Bruen decision, and if the hundreds of Santa Clara County residents who’ve applied for their license to carry continue to experience lengthy delays, unreasonable fees, and discretionary practices that prevent them from exercising their Second Amendment rights Sheriff Jonsen might have his own concealed carry scandal to contend with.



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