California county doubles down on "buyback" scheme as concealed carry applications rise

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

There are a lot of folks in Santa Clara County, California who want to be able to carry a firearm in self-defense but have been unable to do so for decades; not only because of California’s “may-issue” system but abuses by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office that led to applications from ordinary citizens being shoved in desk drawers while “VIPs” were given rarely-issued permits after showing their largesse to the department and former sheriff Laurie Smith, who resigned in disgrace shortly ahead of a guilty verdict in a public corruption trial last year.

But while the number of concealed carry applications has grown tenfold in the months since Smith stepped down and the Supreme Court struck down the “may issue” scheme that fostered the culture of graft and corruption within the sheriff’s office, Santa Clara County officials are still signaling their opposition to the exercise of our Second Amendment rights; first by setting up a new regime designed to deny as many applicants as possible, as well as expanding the county’s useless “gun buyback” program despite no evidence that it’s working to reduce violent crime.

The county Board of Supervisors this week gave approval for the Sheriff’s Office and district attorney to host a minimum of two events each year in an effort to increase the numbers of guns turned in.

A buyback event in the city of Milpitas in 2022 yielded over 400 guns.

The move by the board will also bolster an existing gun relinquishment program that allows residents to surrender a gun at any time at a Sheriff’s Office station by offering $50 gift cards as an incentive. The program has received over 500 guns over the last five years, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

… The events typically cost between $75,000 to $100,000 to fund county staff and law enforcement overtime and the cash incentives. The events will be funded through asset seizures from law enforcement.

A county report recommended against considering the events as a way to reduce crime, citing research showing that such buybacks are not effective in reducing gun violence. But the report said the effectiveness of reducing crime can be enhanced by pairing the events with other outreach efforts.

Seems to me that if compensated confiscation events are ineffective at reducing crime, it would be those other “outreach efforts” that would have an impact, not the “buybacks” themselves. Either way, crime in Santa Clara County is going in the wrong direction, according to the local D.A.’s office, which reports that violent crime has been trending upward for much of the past decade.

Not only are Santa Clara’s gun “buybacks” not having any positive effect on the crime rate, none of California’s gun control laws are either. Still, the new sheriff in Santa Clara County still wants to make it as hard as possible for law-abiding residents to protect themselves, even as more residents are seeking concealed carry permits since the Bruen decision came down.

“It’s a natural progression for people to say, ‘Hey, why not?’ and throw in an application,” [Sheriff Bob] Jonsen told San Jose 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 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.

The goal shouldn’t be to deny as many permits as possible, but to ensure that as many residents as possible can exercise their right to keep and bear arms. At least that should be the goal of any public official who took seriously their oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Sheriff Laurie Smith may be gone from a position of power, but it’s clear that she wasn’t the only one standing between the people of Santa Clara County and their fundamental right to bear arms in self-defense.