Gun control isn’t just racist, classist, expensive, and wildly ineffective. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for some good old fashion graft. In jurisdictions where your right to keep and bear arms is dependent on the say-so of a government functionary — rather than, say, the Constitution — plenty of public servants see that discretion as an opportunity to pay for a new boat, pad their retirement account or keep themselves in office.
The best example, as always, is New York City where there have been serial scandals over the years and only the rich and famous can get a carry permit. Is there anywhere else in the U.S. where the job title “gun license broker” is a thing?
The latest tough-on-guns locale where cops have used their dominion over the permitting process profitably is Silicon Valley. The stink emanating from Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith’s operation has been talked about for years. It finally got to the point last fall where warrants were issued and her offices were searched.
From the San Francisco Chronicle . . .
Prosecutors in Santa Clara County have served at least three search warrants while investigating whether Sheriff Laurie Smith’s office gave out coveted concealed-gun permits in exchange for campaign money, sources familiar with the investigation told The Chronicle.
The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office raided the sheriff’s San Jose headquarters Aug. 2, seizing evidence through a search warrant that remains sealed. About a week before that, sources said, prosecutors served search warrants on two of the sheriff’s higher-ranking supervisors.
You know those big Silicon Valley tech firms that are so fond of defunding and deplatforming firearms-related companies and content creators? It seems the Sheriff was — allegedly — trading carry permits for their security goons for fat campaign donations.
Yesterday, the Santa Clara County DA announced that indictments have finally been handed down.
From the San Jose Mercury News . . .
A grand jury has indicted a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s captain and three political supporters of Sheriff Laurie Smith for allegedly brokering a pay-for-play scheme in which campaign donations were exchanged for concealed-carry weapons permits. The sheriff herself avoided indictment, but prosecutors said Friday that their corruption probe is far from over.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced felony charges including conspiracy and bribery against Capt. James Jensen; Christopher Schumb, an officer for a sheriff reelection committee and a prominent South Bay litigator; attorney Harpaul Nahal; and Milpitas gun-parts maker Michael Nichols. All four are accused of plotting to illegally secure concealed-gun permits for employees of Seattle-based executive security contractor AS Solution.
AS Solution provided security for Facebook masters of the universe like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. You know, people who have been wholly (and financially) supportive of gun control measures…as long as their security details have the tools they need to provide adequate protection for themselves and their families.
The indictment marks the first criminal case to come out of a decade’s worth of complaints regarding political favoritism in Smith’s issuing of the hard-to-get concealed-carry permits. Rosen said Friday that an 18-month investigation uncovered a two-tiered policy for the concealed gun permits: a process for regular citizens whose applications were destined for a filing cabinet, and another for VIPs whose applications were fast-tracked for approval.
Imagine that. It appears that giving public employees sole discretion over who is and isn’t allowed to exercise one of their civil rights tends to tempt some of them to use that power for their own benefit.
What about Sheriff Smith? Wasn’t she the ultimate beneficiary of the cash-for-carry scam?
A criminal grand jury was impaneled in July and began convening about two weeks ago. When asked whether Smith or other top commanders were involved in the pay to play scheme, Rosen declined to comment, citing the active investigation.
“We are not done,” he added.
Our crystal ball reveals larger legal bills in the Sheriff’s future. But the permitting “irregularities” didn’t stop with the tech giants’ security firm.
Jensen has also been charged with falsifying firearms proficiency forms for seven permit recipients: Nielsen and six people unrelated to the alleged AS Solution conspiracy, including sitting county supervisor Mike Wasserman, whose office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. The indictment did not detail the circumstances of those allegations, but prosecutors said the recipients’ permits were issued or renewed without having to complete the re-qualification requirements.
Do you think Supervisor Wasserman paid for his carry permit? Did he ever go through the qualifying process? Inquiring minds want to know.
Then there’s the treatment the average Santa Clara County citizens got. What happened when Joe or Jane Blow decided they’d like a permit in order to exercise their right to keep and bear arms?
Multiple sources familiar with the CCW review process have told this organization the only qualification that approved applications had in common was a directive from Smith or one of her top commanders. Rejected or non-processed applications, sources said, often went into a drawer and weren’t looked at again.
So, just like in New York, if you don’t know someone, have political pull, or are willing to help the Sheriff keep her job, your carry permit application was likely to end up in the circular file.
Rev. Jethroe Moore, president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP chapter, said he was denied a permit renewal after he refused to support Smith’s 2018 reelection bid. Moore has called for Smith to step down.
“If you don’t play in her court, you don’t get one,” he said Friday. “This is a continued pattern of misleadership under her. It’s time for change at the top.”
Strange, but you don’t encounter these problems in shall-issue jurisdictions. But don’t expect any of this to change any minds in Sacramento about the state’s famously restrictive gun control laws. The current system is working exactly the way they intend it to.