According to the California Department of Justice (DOJ), the Golden State is a “may-issue” state. If you live in a county with a pro-Second Amendment Sheriff, an aspring Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit holder has an excellent chance of realizing their ambition. If you live in a county or metro area that only “allows” CCW when there’s a specific, credible, verifiable, imminent threat to your life (an affidavit from your would-be assassin is best), and maybe not even then, your effort to defend yourself through force of arms is doomed to failure. Between 1987 and 2005, San Francisco gave out no more than ten permits per year. Here’s the drill . . .
California is one of only five states—including Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York—whose state constitutions are silent on the issue of gun rights. This legislative tabula rasa leaves the Sheriff or the Chief of the Police Department of each county with full discretion. As you may know these are elected positions. In CA, your right to keep and bear arms ultimately depends on politics.
To satisfy The Man, you have to prove “good cause” to carry a firearm. Oh, and you must establish that you are a California resident possessing “good moral character” (yes, I am looking at you, Sean Penn). As you can imagine, both terms are subject to more interpretation than Citizen Kane’s sled.
As stated above, in some counties The Man requires documented threats of bodily harm. In other cases, it’s all about the money. Applicants who carrying large amounts of cash (e.g. landlords) or jewels (e.g. jewelers not wealthy women) get to pass Go. Some counties will accept your “good cause” statement as “I want a gun to defend my life and the lives of my family.” In most cases, applicants try to tick all three boxes.
The process in the county where I live—a virtual “shall-issue” county—these are the required steps:
1. Obtain and submit application – $20
Online, you have to schedule an appointment with the Sheriff’s office to drop-off the initial application drop-off
Because this county is fairly new to the permit process and getting a permit was more difficult to get than an tee time at Augusta during the Masters’ prior to October last year, the appointment delay is about six months. All of the counties are a little different. As more of the initial applicants get through the process, it should speed up considerably.
2. NICS background check – $122
Assuming you make it through, the Sheriff’s office will mail an initial approval letter with a LiveScan fingerprint form for the Cal DOJ clearance portion. LiveScan Fee – $122
3. CCW Course $175~$225
You can take a certified CCW course anytime during this process, but it’s better to get the initial clearance first in case The Man turns down your initial application. The course is mandated to be not more than 16 hours.
You have to qualify on every weapon you wish to carry (up to a maximum of three) and take a written test. The Sheriff’s Office does not provide a list of certified instructors; you have to call around or search the Internet for one in your area. Class Fee – $175~$225
4. Schedule a Final Interview
Once the Sheriff receives the clearance letter from the California DOJ they will notify you via letter that you have been approved and invite you to schedule a final interview. This can take one to two weeks from the time the DOJ green light your application, depending on how many open slots are available.
5. FInal Interview – $80
At the final interview, you must provide your CCW course certificate, and thumbprint your permit. The Sheriff (with or without a panel) may ask you any question they wish about your circumstances, firearms knowledge and abilities.
It takes four days to two weeks for the certified letter with your laminated rice paper to arrive. Permit Fee – $80
Assuming the lower cost for the CCW course ($175), the total bill comes to $397. Of course, this doesn’t count the expense of missed work and parking fees downtown for every visit.
Am I appreciative of the permit? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. But this article is about the sporadic (chaotic?) disparity of obtaining a CCW in California.
Does getting all the background, fingerprints, and certifications done make me safer, or more importantly, smarter in carrying a handgun? Perhaps. But one cannot help but look across to the states that have either no, or limited, requirements to conceal carry and I don’t see hordes of “concealed carry killers”: law-abiding citizens running afoul of the law.
Of course there are gang shootings, armed robberies, rapes and other violent crimes. But I would bet most of these are by criminals already in the system who did not buy their guns legally, or even carry their gun in a holster. So maybe that’s the answer: you should only have to buy a holster for your handgun. This is my permit!