California Police Chief Requires Psych Evals For All CCW Applicants

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

The requirements to get a permit to carry in the state of California call for very specific things. Well, some of the things are not that “specific”, otherwise the Golden State would be “shall-issue” rather than “may-issue”. These requirements are going to come in full focus, since Murrieta, California requires all CCW applicants to get a mental health evaluation. Yep, you read that right.

According to the state law, here are the requirements (Penal. Code, §§ 26150-26225) for applicants:

(a) When a person applies for a license to carry a pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person, the sheriff of a county may issue a license to that person upon proof of all of the following:

(1) The applicant is of good moral character.

(2) Good cause exists for issuance of the license.

(3) The applicant is a resident of the county or a city within the county, or the applicant’s principal place of employment or business is in the county or a city within the county and the applicant spends a substantial period of time in that place of employment or business.

(4) The applicant has completed a course of training as described in Section 26165.

The California AG’s website also has pretty specific instructions on the process:

Contact your county sheriff’s office or, if you are a resident of an incorporated city, your city police department, for information on obtaining a CCW license. They can answer your questions and provide you with a copy of their CCW license policy statement and the CCW license application. If you live within an incorporated city, you may apply to the police department or the county sheriff’s office for a CCW license. However, only residents of a city may apply to a city police department for a CCW license.

So, the AG is pretty mum on the situation. Deflect and defer to someone else.

In the city of Murrieta, California, they have listed on their website the requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit. There is a bit more to it than what’s noted above:

  • Must be a resident of the City of Murrieta (Penal Code § 26150 and Penal Code § 26155).
  • Be at least 21 years of age (Penal Code § 29610).
  • Must be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Fully complete an application that will include substantial personal information-much of which may be subject to public access under the Public Records Act.
  • Be free from criminal convictions that would disqualify the applicant from carrying a firearm-see DOJ Firearms Prohibiting Categories.
  • Be of good moral character (Penal Code § 26150 and Penal Code § 26155).
  • Show good cause for the issuance of the license (Penal Code § 26150 and Penal Code § 26155).
  • Pay all associated application fees required by any third-party provider as well as fees required by the Department of Justice and the cost of the LiveScan (fees will not be refunded if the application is denied). The City of Murrieta does not currently charge any fees for issuance of a CCW other than the state fees which are paid to the state.
  • Provide proof of ownership and registration of any firearm associated with the license.
  • Be free from any psychological conditions that might make the applicant unsuitable for carrying a firearm (Penal Code § 26190).
  • Complete required training (Penal Code § 26165).

And finally, the one line item to zero in on is part of their permitting process:

  • Psychological Review.

Where this comes from is another section of California law (Penal Code § 26190):

f) (1) If psychological testing on the initial application is required by the licensing authority, the license applicant shall be referred to a licensed psychologist used by the licensing authority for the psychological testing of its own employees. The applicant may be charged for the actual cost of the testing in an amount not to exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150).

(2) Additional psychological testing of an applicant seeking license renewal shall be required only if there is compelling evidence to indicate that a test is necessary. The cost to the applicant for this additional testing shall not exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150).

Basically California is the wild west when it comes to the issuance of concealed carry permits. We already knew that they were daft in this department, but taking a closer look at the wiggle room in the statutes, different jurisdictions really can go nuts (no pun intended) when it comes to permitting requirements. Which brings us to the situation in Murrieta.

When looking through the Murrieta city ordinances, there are very few references to firearms. Most of them are your standard firearm discharge regulations. Nothing glaring that jumps out, which means this policy on requiring a psychological review lies solely on the shoulders of the licensing authority, ie, Chief of Police. From the Chief’s “Murrieta Police Department Murrieta PD Policy Manual“:

The Chief of Police may, based upon criteria established by the Chief of Police, require that the applicant be referred to an authorized psychologist used by the department for psychological testing. The cost of such psychological testing (not to exceed $150) shall be paid by the applicant. The purpose of any such psychological testing is intended only to identify any outward indications or history of psychological problems that might render the applicant unfit to carry a firearm. This testing is not intended to certify in any other respect that the applicant is psychologically fit. If it is determined that the applicant is not a suitable candidate for carrying a firearm, the applicant shall be removed from further consideration (Penal Code § 26190).

Through a news tip, sources say that the Chief of Police Tony Conrad requires this psychological evaluation from every candidate. In the application documentation online, it’s stated that only two psychologists are on their approved venders list. Further, it was said that the psychological review process requires applicants to take a personality test from one of the noted physicians. The test is said to be the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2). This raises several questions.

I reached out to Chief Conrad via email and asked the following three questions, prefacing them in context of the application of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 test policy:

1) On what grounds does your department have this policy in place? Out of all the jurisdictions that I know of in the United States, no such permitting requirement exists. A personality test and or psychological evaluation is subjective. This goes against the “interest balancing” approach cited in the Heller case. Making case-by-case determinations is forbid per the cited case for constitutional rights. What are the specific requirements that would cause your department to approve or deny the issuance of a permit? Can I have a list, so applicants and the public at large know who would qualify for a permit?

2) Given the Heller decision, do you think that such case-by-case determinations are constitutionally sound?

3) The $150.00 fee is onerous for many, even in California, where the cost of living is much higher than other parts of the country. Is this not akin to a poll tax? That is a tax in order to exercise a constitutional right. Per Harper v. Virginia, the following was stated: “We conclude that a State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard. Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth nor to paying or not paying this or any other tax.” Voting, and the keeping and bearing of arms, are both constitutional rights. Do you think this is a constitutionally sound practice?

Is the Chief within California law? From the research done, he seems to be. But what about the constitutionality? That answer is clearly no. Are there other towns and counties in the jurisdiction of California that require mental health evaluations, yes. Does that make the practice right, no. Is it within the issuing authorities discretion to require this, yes…well, it’s on record that at lest one individual has questioned the constitutionality of this practice directly to Chief Conrad.

When put to task, what does Chief Conrad think? I got the following reply:

From: Conrad, Tony [redacted]
To: [redacted] [John Petrolino]
Cc: Samario, Dominique [redacted]; Reid, Markellus [redacted]; Henry, Matthew [redacted]; Gomez, Phillip [redacted]
Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2021, 02:34:54 PM CDT
Subject: CCW Questions

Good Afternoon Mr. Petrolino

Your specific questions can be answered by looking at our City of Murrieta website.

Go to www.murrietaca.gov

Under the Police Department page – look for programs – double click on the “Carry Concealed Weapon License” program

This webpage has sub-pages that cover everything from our CCW program background to requirements and restrictions. A psychological assessment tab is included.

The website should answer your questions.

The MPD CCW Program is a voluntary alternative to the County’s CCW process. It is offered as a service to the citizens of Murrieta at council’s request. It has been very well received by our community there are no plans to change the process.

Respectfully,
Chief Conrad

The people CCed in the reply to me are:

Dominique Samario, City Manager’s Office, Title: Public Information Officer
Mark Reid, Police Department, Title: Captain
Matthew Henry, Police Department, Title: Captain
Phil Gomez, Police Department, Title: Lieutenant

This is understandable, having the “Public Information Officer” in the loop is going to be crucial here. Because I did check out the page the Chief referenced and it did have SOME information. Aside from the fact he completely disregarded my questions about the constitutionality of the practice, I’m impressed he wrote back. Just so you know, nothing on the page cited addressed my questions about what exact results from said test would yield the non-issuance of a permit to carry. Nothing. It’s just an explanation tossed up there to justify the practice.

Okay, that was nice. What would also have been nice is if that information was available prior to reaching out to Conrad’s office. Looking at the cached information page, on Aug 25, 2021 01:41:08 GMT the webpage he’s talking about was not hyperlinked. That cached page has already been replaced with a new cached page (should have taken a screenshot of that one). It’s there now. But when doing my research, it was not there.

Pulling some verbatim text from the page the Chief referenced yields no results in a search engine, whereas the other pages do yield results. Using the “wayback machine”, there is no record (as of August 26th) of the page he’s citing. The cached page referenced does have a “wayback” record. Having picked through their webpages very closely, it does appear that the Chief’s “answer” to my question was recently published online sometime on August 25th, maybe the 24th. What we do know is that this section which is hyperlinked of this page was added sometime after August 25, 2021 01:481:08 GMT:

Psychological Assessment
Read more about the psychological assessment regarding our CCW licensing program.

The information was hard to find because it was either not there or inaccessible. I’ll note that the Chief did expeditiously respond to my email to his office; two days is not bad. However given the lack of substance to what he did send me, this probably could have been addressed sooner. But, you can’t send someone to a webpage that does not exist.

Where does this all leave us? For starters, as indicated by Conrad, “…there are no plans to change the process.” That means a mandatory $150.00 psychological exam for all applicants. This also means that people will have to use, per CA law “… a licensed psychologist used by the licensing authority for the psychological testing of its own employees…”

I’m not saying there’s anything nefarious going on at Murrieta, but I am saying this can be viewed as a gigantic conflict of interest. What if someone was undergoing psychological treatment by a clinician already and that clinician thinks the person is perfectly safe to carry a firearm, but the statutorily mandated psychologist thinks otherwise? The scenarios are countless.

I certainly don’t know much about the field of mental health, so I took it upon myself to reach out to the company that makes the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) test. I was not sure how this all works. I asked about how long the test would take and in what manner here’s what they had to say back to me:

Completion time of the test: 60-90 minutes
Administration option : Q-global, Q Local, or paper-and-pencil
Forms: 567 True-False items
Scoring options: Q-global scoring & reporting, Q Local software, hand scoring, or mail-in scoring service

Also from their information page:

Relevant to a range of applications, the MMPI-2 instrument assists with the diagnosis of mental disorders and the selection of appropriate treatment methods.

The test takes between an hour and an hour and a half. The test also “assists with the diagnosis of mental disorders”. The information page put out by Murrieta PD says this about the test:

It is used by mental health professionals to assess and diagnose mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and anti-social or psychopathic behaviors.

What we’re looking at is a 567 true of false questionnaire that can help a clinician diagnose a mental illness. That’s all that’s needed? Clearly no. This is a tool to assist a clinician, from what I understand. Not the way it’s worded by the PD, “assess and diagnose”. It’s an assistance tool and to advertise it as anything but is being untruthful.

The newly posted information page also says this:

In addition to using the MMPI, TCT also asks questions during their evaluation to assess for “behaviors of concern”, including mental health issues, drug/alcohol abuse, impulsivity, sleep problems, anger management, employment history, and interpersonal difficulties. Their detailed assessment is very important for the police chief as it assists with making an informed decision when issuing a CCW permit.

What special training does any issuing authority have to “make an informed decision on issuing a CCW” when given a report from a clinician? Chief Conrad, are you able to take the “detailed assessment” and make a professional opinion on someone’s mental health suitability? Can you please provide us with a detailed list of what disorders and potential diagnoses you are precluding from being able to obtain a CCW? Can you put them specifically on your website? And further, should someone come up to be determined mentally unstable, what treatment plans have you decided to implement to get someone that you know to be a danger the necessary help? Do you personally tend to the administration of their mental health and prescribe them medication after you’ve decided they are not psychologically sound the carry a firearm?

The whole entire law allowing this practice in the state of California is ridiculous, onerous, and unconstitutional. Outside of a consent for mental health background check, there is no division of pre-crime that will tell anyone if someone else is a danger to themselves or others. Given the very broad scope that is afforded according to California’s unconstitutional law, I can understand administering such an evaluation if there were an indication a person might be a danger, but everyone? Further, Conrad is requiring it (when he does not have to), so the department should have to pay this poll tax. There shouldn’t be any evaluation anyhow.

The ramifications of this are much larger than just within California. There have been pushes to make psychological testing mandatory to purchase and or carry firearms in this country. This is one story of one screwed up jurisdiction in one screwed up state, where the police chief sees no problem sending people to clinicians and having them take a test to exercise a constitutional right.