By C.D. Michel and Kostas Moros
The landmark Bruen ruling was a huge win for gun owners across the country, but as we’ve seen repeatedly, Supreme Court rulings alone are not self-enforcing. It still takes work to pressure the government at all levels to comply. Enforcing Bruen is no exception.
Thankfully, the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) developed good working relationships with most Sheriffs in California in the last ten years or so. Many of these Sheriffs were effectively “shall issue” already — largely because of CRPA’s lobbying efforts after the persuasive decision in CRPA’s Peruta v California case came down in 2015.
After the Bruen decision last June, CRPA launched a statewide legal education and compliance program that advised all Sheriffs and Police Chiefs of their new legal obligations. Many were thankful for the advice and guidance offered from CRPA’s legal team, and quickly made adjustments to their issuance process.
While most counties in California were effectively shall-issue even before Bruen, a handful of jurisdictions concentrated around the coastal cities were not. They have always been hostile to public carry rights, and those counties largely resisted or slow-walked issuing permits since the Bruen ruling. But CRPA has been holding them to their Constitutional obligations, and, through the CRPA’s CCW Reckoning Project, and the promise of litigation if they don’t comply, we have made significant gains in getting them to abide by the Constitution.
Since that Peruta ruling, and thanks in part to CRPA’s efforts, the number of CCWs estimated in California rose from about 100,000 to about 220,000 at the time of the DOJ’s shameful leak of CCW data last year. Since Bruen, that number has risen to over 300,000. But many more people want CCWs, and with California’s population, that number should be well over 1 million.
Alameda used to say on its website that “having a CCW license is a privilege, not an entitlement, and the Courts have ruled that a California CCW license is not guaranteed to all persons under the 2nd Amendment of the United States.” Our lawyers sent newly-elected Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez a letter with a draft lawsuit back in January, telling her that the case would be filed if a number of changes weren’t made. The Alameda Sheriff complied and agreed to provide monthly permit-issuance statistics, and also agreed to eliminate a plethora of unconstitutional requirements including:
- requiring applicants to furnish photographs of their firearm storage;
- inquiring about home security and cameras;
- asking for the number and storage location of the applicant’s firearms;
- asking for information about the people who live in the applicant’s home and the layout of that home;
- requiring proof of income;
- asking where an applicant intends to carry; and
- limiting CCW permits to a single firearm provided the applicant qualifies for each firearm.
Since then, dozens of permits have been issued to regular citizens in Alameda, including several CRPA members. CRPA continues to monitor and seek change on other issues in Alameda, such as an onerous psychological exam as well as long processing times.
Santa Clara is another example. The former Sheriff was entangled in a “pay to play” CCW permit issuance scandal, so the county was initially slow to ramp up permit issuance. But thanks to consistent pressure from CRPA, that has changed. Facing a huge backlog of applicants, the county recently conducted an interview “clinic” in which hundreds of applicant interviews were conducted over a single weekend. This cleared a significant bottleneck in the application process. Santa Clara will continue to provide regular monthly updates on its permit issuance as part of an agreement with CRPA.
Even San Francisco has approved its first CCW permit applications in decades following pressure from CRPA, although only a couple of individuals have actually received permits as of this writing. We are also challenging the City’s extremely onerous psychological exam requirement, which takes several hours to complete and is only administered on week days. San Francisco continues to be a focus for CRPA and a work in progress. They will likely pass an ordinance that designates most of the city as a “sensitive place” where CCWs are invalid – in direct conflict with Bruen’s mandate. They are now high on our lawsuit target list. In fact, we love suing San Francisco!
CRPA has also been in regular communication with Sheriff Livingston of Contra Costa County. He has been issuing permits at a steady clip in recent months, but still has a significant backlog to get through. CRPA attorneys have reached out to him again about odd rules he places on guns that are carried, such as barring the use of lights and red dot sights. A couple of CRPA members have reported that they were denied by the county with no explanation, and we await the Sheriff’s response to our questions about that as well.
Los Angeles County has the most potential CCW holders and has been a major frustration to many CRPA members due to its extremely long wait times, which often exceeded a year. Sheriff Luna responded to CRPA’s demand for improvement by saying that his Department’s adoption of the Permitium application processing software will greatly speed things up. Many jurisdiction use Permittium to assist with processing CCW applications, and as of this writing, Permitium has gone live in LA County. CRPA will continue to stay in touch with applicants and push the Sheriff to make sure things are actually moving much faster.
Finally, CRPA is aware that several cities, particularly in the Los Angeles County area, are charging exorbitant amounts for CCW permits. Thanks to a letter from CRPA as well as resident backlash, La Verne slightly lowered its total fees, but only marginally, from $1081 to $936. Other cities like Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Morgan Hill have similarly high application fees. They are also high on the lawsuit target list.
CRPA knows that letters and lobbying can only go so far, and sometimes nothing short of litigation will work. Litigation on the issues of long wait times, unconstitutional requirements, and exorbitant fees is likely soon.
Meanwhile, Gavin Newsom’s pet bill – Senate Bill 2 is making its way through the state legislature and would replace some of these bad local practices and policies with bad statewide mandates. CRPA is actively working to defeat the bill, but this is the centerpiece of the state’s effort to get around the mandates of the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision and it will be hard to stop. A lawsuit has already been drafted and will be filed before the ink on Newsom’s signature is dry. Please support the cause!
To support CRPA’s efforts, visit CRPA.org
C.D. “Chuck” Michel is Senior Partner at the Long Beach, California Law firm of Michel & Associates, P.C. He is the author of California Gun Laws, A Guide to State and Federal Firearm Regulations now in its 10th edition for 2023 and available at www.calgunlawsbook.com.
Konstadinos Moros is an Associate Attorney with Michel & Associates, a law firm in Long Beach that regularly represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) in its litigation efforts to restore the Second Amendment in California. You can find him on his Twitter handle @MorosKostas. To donate to CRPA or become a member, visit https://crpa.org/.