Since the Bruen decision was handed down last year, the California Rifle & Pistol Association has been closely monitoring how cities and counties around the state have sought to comply with the Supreme Court’s edict, or in some cases, how they’ve tried to circumvent or outright ignore the ruling. Despite the Supreme Court’s admonition that even “shall issue” regimes can violate our Second Amendment rights if they involve excessive fees, waiting periods, or onerous training mandates, we’ve seen a number of localities in Cali force gun owners to fork over four figures just to apply for a concealed handgun permit. Other locales have dragged their collective feet in issuing those permits as well, forcing responsible gun owners to twiddle their thumbs and wait for their local anti-gun bureaucracy to approve the exercise of their fundamental right.
CRPA has sent out multiple pre-litigation letters to these communities warning them that if they don’t change their regulations they’ll be facing a lawsuit, and have seen some success with that approach. But other locales have dug in their heels, and now CRPA has fired off another missive; this one to California Attorney General Rob Bonta requesting his help.
We sent a letter to @AGRobBonta regarding issues we've been dealing with in a handful of counties related to carry rights. Specifically long wait times, exorbitant fees, and the use of an outside vendor in a way we believe to be illegal. You can read the letter here.
We are of… https://t.co/XfBSZFvzol
— Kostas Moros (@MorosKostas) July 26, 2023
As Moros said in his tweet, CRPA doesn’t seriously expect Bonta to lift a finger to help out California gun owners, but the letter puts him on notice so that he can’t claim ignorance about what’s happening when these cities and counties are sued over their unconstitutional policies.
In the letter (which you can find in its entirety here), CRPA’s Chuck Michel lays out a litany of abuses that are taking place in the Golden State, starting with those needless delays.
While Bruen forbids issuing authorities from completely denying law-abiding applicants a permit to carry in public, many counties are obstructing the right to carry by taking over a year to process new applicants. This includes the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, and many others.
CRPA understands that it takes time to get new administrative systems in place, which is why in the year since Bruen CRPA has not yet filed a lawsuit on these issues. Instead, our client has chosen to try to work with the offending counties to give them time to get systems in place and processing times down. A few departments have made progress, such as Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department and more recently, the San Francisco Police Department.
But most issuing authorities have seen their wait time situation get worse instead of better. They have not devoted additional resources to processing the influx of permit applications timely. When a constitutional right is at stake, more urgency and compliance is required.
Some departments blame the California Department of Justice (DOJ) for the delays because background check requests are taking several months to process. To the extent DOJ is contributing to the delays in permit processing, that needs to be resolved promptly.
Next Michel turns to the excessive fees charged by some cities. Not only does Michel bring the receipts for how much some cities are charging applicants, he warns Bonta that many of those locations appear to be violating California law by using a third party called MyCCW to “outsource their administrative functions”.
1. While the licensing authority of a city may charge an additional fee beyond the standard DOJ charges equal to its reasonable costs for processing, that amount must be transmitted to the city’s treasury, not to the profit margin of a private company. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(b).
2. MyCCW charges $348 for processing renewals. That is in direct violation of California law, which caps renewal charges at $25. Cal. Penal Code § 26190(b) (“The licensing authority may charge an additional fee, not to exceed twenty-five dollars ($25), for processing the application for a license renewal, and shall transmit an additional fee, if any, to the city, city and county, or county treasury.”)
3. It’s not clear that it’s even legal to use a third-party processor to outsource a law enforcement function, regardless of what they charge. For several reasons, including applicant privacy and the sensitive information revealed by applicants, the Sheriff and Police Departments are supposed to process permits, as exemplified by the only exception listed on handling processing internally being that cities may contract with the County Sheriff to process permits. Cal. Penal Code § 26155(c).
After laying out the litany of abuses taking place across the state, CRPA then asks Bonta to use his official powers to bring these localities to heel by taking four specific steps.
1. Notify all issuing authorities that they must comply with both Bruen and California law by bringing down wait times to 90 days (or 120 days if SB2 passes). If they are unable to do so, more resources must be allocated to be able to process applications in a timely fashion.
2. Notify all issuing authorities that they may not charge more than the actual cost of processing applications. If they opt for extra investigation, psychological exams, outsourcing to MyCCW, etc., they must pay those added costs. Applicants can only be required to cover the cost of their DOJ background check and the training course, as well as the standard application fee.
3. Eliminate the delays in processing background checks by the DOJ.
4. Publish something along the lines of the legal guidance that your office put out on July 17, 2023 informing local governments attempting to skirt state housing mandate.
Will Bonta abide by CRPA’s request? Almost certainly not, but as Moros says the AG can no longer feign ignorance about these abuses going forward, and may even be sued along with cities like La Verne and Santa Monica for failing to safeguard the rights of California residents when it comes to bearing arms in self-defense. These cities have already been put on notice, and now the same goes for the AG.
Michel’s letter asks for a reply within 21 days, which suggests that we could see some litigation filed in the next few months. CRPA is already taking on multiple infringements levied by the state legislature, but it sure looks like the next round of lawsuits will be directed at those local anti-gunners who are actively working to deprive residents of their fundamental civil liberties.