California County's 'Streamlined' Concealed Carry Application Doesn't Address Lengthy Delays

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

The California Rifle and Pistol Association is already suing several jurisdictions over the exorbitant fees, excessive mandates, and lengthy wait times that are built-in to the concealed carry application process, but it might be time to add another defendant to the lawsuit. 

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department recently unveiled a new software program for use in concealed carry applications, but while the department claims it will offer a "better experience for the customers", the program doesn't address the biggest problem that gun owners are experiencing when they're applying for their carry permits; the wait of 12 months or more before their applications are approved.

While filling out the application may be a lot smoother, once it is filed, not a whole lot changes. It still takes about 15 months to complete the process and get the permit in hand.

There are less than 20 Sheriff’s Department staffers working in the licensing unit, which handles nearly three dozen different types of licensing and registrations from managing taxi permits to running the arson and sex offender registries. Requisite in-person appointments for people seeking concealed-carry permits are generally only done on Mondays. The soonest that appointments are available? 2025.

This is completely unacceptable, and blatantly unconstitutional as well. In fact, the similar delays in processing carry applications led to the CRPA including Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in its lawsuit filed late last year. 

As of the filing of this lawsuit, the wait times for LASD permit applicants in fact have grown worse instead of better, with CRPA members complaining of wait times in excess of 15 months. Some individuals who submitted applications at the time of the Bruen ruling in June 2022 have not even been contacted for their initial interview, as of November 2023. LASD does not deny that its wait times are absurdly long. In response to a Public Records Act request by Attorney Jason Davis, the Department confirmed that applicants could expect wait times of, “from application entry to issuance . . . a year to a year and a half.”

The Supreme Court held in Bruen that even "shall issue" regimes could violate our Second Amendment rights if they involve "lengthy wait times in processing license applications or exorbitant fees" that "deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry." That's exactly what's happening in both Los Angeles and San Diego counties, where more than 12 million Californians reside. 

If this was a pressing concern for local politicians, county supervisors in San Diego and Los Angeles would make sure these licensing divisions were fully funded and operational, so that they could process applications in a timely manner. Instead, the sheriffs are arguing that they simply don't have the staff to process these applications within the 120 days allotted to them under California law. 

Even if that's the case, it's not the fault of the applicant, and they shouldn't be punished for the recalcitrance of the county supervisors, which is what's happening right now. 

Still, there's at least the prospect of relief on the horizon. One week ago, U.S. District Judge Sherilyn Peace Garnett held a hearing on CRPA's request for a preliminary injunction. The organization is asking (among other things) Garnett to declare that the lengthy wait times are a violation of the Second Amendment, as well as "[a]n order preliminarily and permanently enjoining Los Angeles LASD, and Sheriff Luna in his official capacity, from refusing to process or issue a CCWPermit to any qualified applicant 120 days after receipt of such applicant’s initial application for a new license or a license renewal, or 30 days after receipt of the applicant's criminal background check from the Department of Justice, whichever is later."

If Garnett grants that request, it would not only improve the wait times in Los Angeles, but signal to other jurisdictions like San Diego County that their lengthy delays are an abuse of our civil liberties and also need to be rectified immediately. The judge, appointed to the bench by Joe Biden in 2022, doesn't have much of a judicial track record on Second Amendment cases, and based on this reporting it unfortunately doesn't sound like she's the second coming of "Saint Benitez".

The judge appeared reluctant to issue the sweeping injunction the plaintiffs seek, and she asked Konstandinos Moros, one of their attorneys, to explain how she can issue such an order that applies beyond four of the named gun owners in the lawsuit who have been waiting for the Sheriff's Department to issue their permits.

"It's an 'as applied' challenge to the delay, shouldn't I look at the particular individuals," she asked the attorney.

Garnett also wasn't persuaded how instructive the Bruen decision was in terms of deciding what delays or fees were unreasonable in the high court's view. Given that things simply cost more in California than in many other states, it wouldn't help much for her to look at jurisdictions outside the state, she observed.

"There's nothing in Bruen that says the city can't pass on the costs of these checks to the applicant," Garnett said.

No, but the Court did say that "exorbitant fees" are constitutionally suspect, and charging more than $1,000 to exercise a fundamental civil right is extraordinarily problematic. Would Garnett be okay with a four-figure poll tax before we can vote? If not, then there's no reason she should find a similar fee to exercise the right to carry a firearm in self-defense acceptable. 

I wish I could say with confidence that gun owners in Los Angeles and San Diego will soon get the relief they so desperately need, but that just isn't the case. I hope that Garnett proves me wrong, but at this point there's not much evidence to point to a fair hearing and a just decision.