What started as a simple coffee shop conversation between members of one sheriff’s office quickly grew into a coordinated effort between concealed carry permit issuers across an entire state. Solano County Sheriff Thomas Ferarra and his staff recently hosted the first-ever CCW Coordinator Conference in California, thanks in large part to Deputy Joe Pinder and Sgt. John Swafford.
After confirming the interest of other offices throughout the state, Ferarra invited every county to send a representative to Fairfield, California, in an effort to align concealed carry permitting procedures in an understanding and cooperative environment. Of the 58 counties and sheriff’s departments across California, 45 sent representatives, some even sending more than one.
“We had to turn away some of the late applicants. Some of the cities wanted to send delegates, but we had to limit attendance to just the counties,” Ferarra said. “Next year, we will need to find a larger room.”
Conspicuously absent counties included Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others. Gun Owners of California (GOC) Executive Director Sam Paredes touted the offices present as “doing the work that the DOJ has failed to do.”
California’s Department of Justice has historically offered little leadership and coordination concerning the state’s concealed carry policies and procedures, to say nothing of conflicting and sometimes illegal directives. The state’s unfriendly — more accurately described as “hostile” — attitude toward guns has led to an unsettled legal climate and multiple lawsuits from the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) and many other gun-rights organizations.
Atop the federal regulations for purchasing firearms and obtaining concealed carry permits, California requires an applicant be “of good moral character,” and he or she must have “good cause” for carrying concealed. The definitions of such, as well as the eight-hour minimum training requirement, are left up to the issuing authorities — county sheriff’s offices. This causes a wide disparity in policies, with issuances ranging from nearly none in Los Angeles to well more than 12,000 in nearby Orange County.
Instead of coordinating and harmonizing these policies, California’s DOJ has exceeded its authority in issuing certain regulations and spent millions on computer systems for gun registry. These systems, mind you, are so flawed that many who have attempted to follow the law have been denied permits and are considered by the DOJ to have instead violated the law.
Current and pending legislation has the effect of creating instant felons of otherwise honest gun-owning residents. For instance, do you own a magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds? Congratulations! You are now a felon. How about unregistered firearms passed down through your family? Or lending a friend or family member a gun for a day of target practice? You guessed it … you are now a felon.
Applying for a permit in California, by the way, can cost you up to $200. At present, the state wants $93 for a new license, to which the issuing authority may add up to $100, and those fees may increase with the consumer price index. If you’re turned down, you can kiss any fees you’ve paid upfront a fond farewell.
Then there is this gem: The issuing authority may require psychological testing, with additional fees not to exceed $150. In Orange County, psych evals are only ordered if there appears to be reason to do so, with about one out of every 100 applicants randomly tested. Sgt. Mike Duda, CCW coordinator from Orange County, was unsure as to why the state required random tests. He did note, however, that of all the testing done, about 50 percent failed.
The obvious flaw in this system is that testing may go something like this, especially as the testing is, again, left up to the county with limited to no state regulation:
“So, you want to carry a concealed weapon?”
“Anyone who thinks he or she needs a weapon is paranoid. Denied.”
Along with county sheriff’s offices, Swafford and Pinder enlisted organizations such as the NRA, CRPA and Gun Owners of California for support. Firearms instructors and several vendors — Laser Shot and MilSpec-1 — also made appearances.
Keynote speaker Chris Cheng described his progression from amateur shooter to pro shooter for Bass Pro Shops and winner of the History Channel’s Top Shot competition. In addition to handing out copies of his book Shoot to Win, Cheng also stressed his mission of bringing self-defense concepts and firearms acceptance to the Asian-American and LGBTQ communities.
“Most older Asians associate guns with repressive governments,” Cheng said. “But the Rodney King riots … [and] the absence of police protection helped show another point of view. Guns equal freedom.”
The event concluded with a wrapup panel consisting of CRPA President Chuck Michel, Ed Worley from the NRA and Paredes. The attendees discussed legislation and pro-gun political actions in the state.
According to Michel, California now has more than 800 state statutes regulating the sale, possession, use and just about everything else of firearms. And that does not include the DOJ’s written and unwritten policies.
To Serve and Protect
Despite the state’s punitive gun laws, the prospect of house-to-house confiscation seems remote at this time. However, if a firearms owner comes in contact with the legal system for some other reason or is reported by someone for some contrived reason, law enforcement has probable cause upon which to act. Most officers are not enthusiastic about the situation, as they are also largely gun owners, but there appears to be little stomach for overt resistance.
While I applaud the professional desires and motivation of the CCW Conference hosts and attendees, when I look at the existing and proposed laws, the future looks bleak for California gun owners. A concerted political effort is required, on an ongoing basis, to combat the anti-gun bias of the California Legislature and governor. If such a fight is to be won, it will have to be won from within the state’s borders — and with the help of freedom-loving law enforcement officers like the ones who attended this conference.