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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!

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  1. 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.

    In Oakland it used to be (and for all I know it may still be) that the only person with a permit was the mayor’s chauffeur/bodyguard. Still plenty of people concealing weapons though, many of them with prohibited magazines and or firearms. The ones who get caught are the criminals – I imagine many people carry and defend themselves with arms there without a permission slip.

    • I had a sworn warrant and credible threat from drug dealers once, as a detention supervisor, and still had to wait the full 90 days for off duty carry CWP in SC. Even after the hood of my van was shot as I was heading home one morning.

      • It’s situations like yours that realy disgust me. You should have been issued a permit, no red-tape, no questions asked!

        I am very glad I live in Ohio.

  2. Thankfully I live in the “shall issue” state of Pennsylvania that supports the 2nd Amendment and doesn’t place an unnecessary burden on the applicant. The fee in 2010 to get a CCW permit was $25 including the instant background check and a laminated photo CCW ID card. The sheriff in my county bordering Philadelphia includes an extra step that is not required in all counties, where the police department in the town where you live must sign your back ground check form, which simply states that you have no criminal history with them. This step adds a week or so to the process. Otherwise, it took me 30 minutes from the time I parked my car at the county courthouse and returned with my CCW permit.

    Since PA was the second state to ratify the Consititution and ratified the Bill of Rights within 6 months of proposition, it is refreshing to see that more than 200 years later that PA still believes in the wisdom and wishes of our Founding Fathers.

    • I also reside in the Keystone State. My experience obtaining my LTCF was identical to Jay W. sans verification from the local popo. I live in a more interior county so I’m not effected by the bleed out of Philadelphia CCW mindset that those surrounding counties are (Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware).

      When I first got my LTCF you had to provide three character references on your app. Now you don’t even need to do that. As it should be.

      When I renewed back about a year ago it became even easier. Walk in with the renew form filled out. Hand it, old laminated card and $25.00 cash to the surly deputy sheriff. Wait twenty-five minutes while he slowly did whatever he did while playing grab-ass with his girlfriend who had just brought him lunch. Smile for the camera. Pick up new laminated card. Say thanks. Get no response. Leave.

      A bit of irony: You can’t carry a firearm while you renew your license to carry a firearm.

    • I live in central PA. I walked into my country sheriff’s office one afternoon, filled out the form, they ran the check in about 2 minutes, I gave them $25, they gave me my permit. The whole ordeal took between 15 and 20 minutes. Also, my town is the “safest” metropolitan area in the country with respect to violent crime according to the FBI.


  3. Tim, you need to move further south, say Kern County.

    The CCW process is nothing like that here.

  4. Those look like Californian Poll Taxes to me.

    All that to show how trustworthy and safe you are, and then you still can only have 10 rounds.

  5. Iowa Just became ‘shall-issue,’ and the ccw issuance has been standardized from county to county.

  6. The Live Free or Die state lives up to its name when it comes to CCW permits. The application is one page worth of basic information. Hunting, target shooting, and self-defense are all considered valid reasons to apply for the permit, and it says so right in the instructions for the form. They request three references, whom they are unlikely to contact at all. Fill out the form, drop it off at your local police headquarters, and wait.

    You are not required to enter your Socialist Security Number (though you do have to enter your driver’s license number, and the DMV has your SSN on file, so it’s more or less moot). The Pistol/Revolver License is a simple slip of paper that includes your basic information (name, DOB, eye/hair color, height, etc.), the issuing authority, and your signature. The issuing authority is forbidden from including a picture of the licensee on the license.

    Total cost for NH residents: $10, to be collected upon approval of the license, or $100 for non-residents. The police have no more than two weeks to issue the license or give you a damn good reason why they won’t. There are no other requirements—no extortionate fees, no training courses, no personal interviews, nothing. There are also no restrictions on firearm type or capacity in NH (except for the federal rules). My current license is valid for over four years, until my birthday in 2015.

    I am so glad that I got the hell out of New York City. Live free or die, indeed.

  7. I love my home state of Arizona. Any person legally able to own a firearm can carry concealed. No fees, no interviews, no permits, no nothing which is the way it ought to be.

    • As I understand, Vermont is the same way. I consider New Hampshire’s policy to be the next-best thing. It’s still much better than what we see in so many other states.

  8. N.H. was the easiest state to issue a non-resident permit(one week). I wanted my picture on the permit, but they don’t do that. I’ll be visiting good ole gun loving sheriff Denny Ney in PA, and after I give him $26.00 and pass a background check I’ll have my non-resident permit. The “PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KALIFORNIA” is one of TEN states that won’t allow me to carry no matter what type of permit I have. Even the states that won’t issue non-resident permits will honor my Utah and Florida permits while I’m in their great states. I’m still in the process of jumping through hoops like some circus clown until I obtain every single permit that I’m entitled to possess. I should have gotten my pilot’s license, because I’ll be flying all over this great country to finish my collection of carry permits.

  9. California’s CCW may seem lame, but it’s nothing to Illinois. No concealed carry of any kind. ‘Course unlike Cali we’re allowed to have nunchuks and ninja stars so I guess it evens out.

  10. All I can contribute is a simple recommendation. If your local Sheriff , Police Chief, or Mayor is against concealed carry, vote them out. Get rid of the cancer that is taking over this country one right at a time. Get involved with your local politics and get rid of those who hold office that believe they know “what is best” for us without our consensus. The only way to beat the anti-gunners is to win at the local level and work our way up.

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