Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith
Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
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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.


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    • The 9th has ruled it is not a right, so it dies there.

      The political bias of the 9th ‘circus’ has been changing in the right direction, thanks to Trump’s court appointments.

      Just keep feeding prospective cases into the legal ‘pipeline’; we are nearly at the ‘critical mass’ to actually change things for the better out there…

      • Actually the only recognized right to carry is open carry from what I recall. In the Hawaiian arguements they ruled open carry was an actual right and not concealed. They were relying on another case but it slips my mind. It was funny to watch the 9th tell the Hawaiian Lawyer they could not just have a permit process to satisfy the requirement they had to actually issue permits! Of course they are still appealing and there is no legal carry in Hawaii.

        Young VS Hawaii is for an open carry permit BTW, had it been for concealed the case would of been dismissed years ago in favor of the state.

        Always find it funny how many of you “gun rights” supporters cry about open carry. Ironically it is the only form of carry recognized by the courts as being protected by the BOR.

        • Young isn’t over yet. There was a request for en banc review, and oral arguments are set for next month. One aspect of this case is that the Ninth, in Peruta (cert.den.) ruled that there is no right to carry a concealed firearm, that it is a privilege that may be granted or denied–or completely denied to all–in the discretion of the STate. That really painted the Circuit into a corner, because now it MUST conclude that if there is a right under the 2A to carry outside the home (and Heller doesn’t specifically hold but strongly implies that there is) it is a right to carry openly. The Court would be hard pressed to deny that there is a difference between a right to keep and a right to bear, especially after Scalia said that there is. Given that “unfortunate” conundrum, the democratic majority (which includes the vocally anti-gun Chief Judge who wrote the Peruta opinion and will sit on the en banc panel) will have to find a way to conclude that that right is only conditional, i.e., that it may be conditioned on the exercise of discretion by a go9drnmental official (“may issue” open carry permit).

          By way of background, the chief of police on the island of Hawaii had interpreted the Hawaii statute as allowing only security guards to obtain open carry permits. None others have been approved in the past two decades. And of course, concealed carry permits are not issued at all. Howver, much of the island is jungle where there are more wild hogs than people, and many residents out in the hinterland want to be able to carry firearms for protection against the wild things.

        • Mark, the 9th ruling only open carry is constitutional could work out very well for us, and here’s how :

          The 9th rules only open carry is allowed, we throw them a bone to let them ‘Save Face’.

          Since the Leftists are so terrified of even seeing a gun, we trade them concealed carry for open (even though we will still keep the right to open carry).

          Bingo – Since Leftists won’t go into a tizzy about what they can’t see, we get open and concealed carry in California… 😉

        • @ Mark N the Hawaiian Lawyer told the 9th that because they have a permit system in place it meets the requirements set. This has nothing to do with the Chief of Police and how he reads it. This is how the state of Hawaii feels about people carrying firearms as well as possibly the Chief of Police.

          I am very well aware of how Hawaii works and it is possibly one of the most corrupt states I have ever lived in. Look at the rail system from Honolulu to Kapolei as just one example.

          Don’t know where you lived or live but on Oahu people are not carrying firearms in the bush unless it is very deep cover and I have been all over that island on 2 and 4 wheels in some pretty crazy places.

          I also stated Young is not over and they should be deciding it soon, wish I could find the video where the female judge told Hawaii to fuck off essentially. It was epic and gave me some hope the system is not completely broken.

        • Show me where the second clearly states open or concealed carry.
          I can show you the part where it leaves it up to you.
          Show me the part where it states government employees have any power to make the decision on your right or when you exercise it.
          I can show you the part where it says they can’t.
          Show me the part that gave the legislative branch the power to legislate from the bench.
          I can show you the part that says they can’t.
          And before you whine about states rights, they don’t have any concerning the 2A they surrendered it upon ratification.
          I can show you part that clearly states it.

        • Show me the part where the paper stops the bullet. Show me the part where words stop the boot to the face. Words on paper are only as powerful as the people who use force to make them a reality. There are lots of people with boots and guns willing to stomp and shoot to make their words and paper reality. We forget that the Bill of Rights is an acknowledgment of natural truths, but only truths for men who believe in their own freedom and who are willing to fight for it.

        • “Actually the only recognized right to carry is open carry from what I recall.”
          Tell it to Illinois. They seem to have missed the memo about recognizing it here. After 16 hours of schooling and paying bunch of money you can get concealed carry license, but carry openly and you will become a felon and lose it for life.

      • I wonder if anyone out of state has been denied a permit e.g. a commuter from a more conservative judicial district.

        The left court shops why not us?

        • Again, watch Young VS. Hawaii case, they are supposed to be hearing it soon. They were waiting for the Supreme Court case that was mooted involving New York.

          Originally the 3 judge panel ruled for Young based on the Heller decision I believe. Now it is being heard by all of the judges at Hawaii’s request.

          Again they stated based on what I want to say is the Heller decision only open carry of firearms is protected under the BOR.

    • I had a CCW back in the 80’s? Went away to college let it lapse, As soon as smith stepped into the office (~’98-99), i could no longer renew. I didn’t have that kind if cash flow. Sad thing is if i had it the funds might have been available (been in the security industry for over 35 years now)

    • After they send my permit to me. ( sarc ) I don’t see a lot of difference in this versus the exceptions that congress makes for retired this and that persons.

    • Which one? Not all ex-Eastern Block countries are the same. For example Czech Republic has shall issue concealed carry and recently they amended their Constitutionto protect right to keep and bear arms.

  1. Funny how Heir Mister Zuckerberg is wanting armed security when he is so antigun. I guess it is just the serfs that are not allowed to carry guns, or talk about them.

  2. many years ago it was like that in Florida the sheriffs would not issue hardly any permits that is the reason the state took it all over

    • Truck, it was the county commissioners. Good only in the county issued. The Sheriff had nothing to do with it.

    • That may be good in Florida, but here in California there is a state legislator who has been on an anti-CCW crusade for some years. he objected tot he essential “shall issue” policy of the Sacramento County Sheriff and had tried on a number of occasions to shut down the printing presses–always unsuccessfully. He even ordered a state audit of three counties and their costs associated with CCWs (as an excuse to increase fees exponentially), but that backfired when the audit found that Los Angeles County had an incredibly low rate of approvals (fewer than 1000 in the whole county), and appeared to be violating state law in imposing additional requirements on applicants. Ultimately, I think he WANTS the state to take over the applications process so that the liberal bureaucrats can enforce restrictive may issue standards statewide. (There are a significant number of county sheriffs in the Central Valley who are “essentially shall issue” and he wants to put a stop to it.

      To make it worse, in this increasingly one-party controlled state, is that permits are only good for two years. We are never far away from a change in the law that will result in massive non-renewals.

  3. This is really sad when you find a crooked Sheriff, but no big surprise coming out of NY, the whole state is crooked. Sheriff’s are supposed to be on the side of the constitution, I’ve heard of bad ones before so I guess It shouldn’t be that big of a surprise…. BAD SHERIFF,,, BAD sheriff,. 👁

  4. Maryland – population 6 million.
    Permits granted? 17,414 as of 2017.
    Percentage of population who can get a CCP? 0.2%. That is two tenths of a percent, 7th worst in the nation. May have dropped lower since DC was forced to remove the “good cause” clause and granted over 4,000 permits after the latest round of litigation (up from 124) in 705,000 population.

        • It functions as sort of an “I’m a good guy, not a criminal” ID card.

          It might come in handy during a traffic stop, if you hand it over with your DL…

      • Arizona is a constitutional carry state. You can get an enhanced permit that is recognized by other states hence the low numbers as not many see a need for it.

      • Keep on mind that not all of those permits are for AZ residents. I have a CA permit that AZ recognizes. I filed, and got my AZ permit in a couple weeks. No restrictions on the number or type of firearm like CA, and it activates a bunch of other states so I can carry in most of the U.S. I am concerned that AZ and NV are sliding into the clutches of liberalism because Big Tech employees can now work anywhere and spread their socialist ideals…

    • And we’ve had a RHINO, err I a mean republican governor for almost 8 years and nothing has changed. Same went for our last rhino Erlich.

    • And we’ve had a RHINO, err I a mean republican governor for almost 8 years and nothing has changed. Same went for our last rhino Erlich. Same graft here as usual.

        NO H
        Your not so friendly neighborhood grammar Nazi.
        P. S. I don’t really live near you but I am standing behind you right now.

    • I always say that a lot of folks here vastly overestimate the value of Sheriff departments over police departments. A sheriff may be elected but so are mayors… and look how many shitty mayors we have that appoint shitty police chiefs.

      The rule of thumb is that if your local police department sucks or is anti-gun you probably wouldn’t get a better deal from the sheriff’s department. The same people that vote in the anti-gun officials in one place will vote in an anti-gun sheriff. The exception would be in small towns where a bunch of Karens want to ban all guns but can’t because the county has enough rural voters to outweigh them. But places like Santa Clara? NYC? Nah.

      • When people go vote to re-elect the Sheriff or pick a new one, they obviously consider anything law enforcement related. It is not the case with mayors. I think you have better chances to find a decent sheriffs office versus a police dept. But in the end mayors, police chiefs, county commissioners, sheriffs….they all do politics so it can never be a win-win for the people, I mean the serfs as someone posted above.

      • No doubt, though the Sheriff here was elected on a pro platform supposedly. As was the one prior to. It didn’t take an especially observant person to discern the differences. Before them, there was rampant cronyism, and somehow the people don’t see the same in the current regime. And yet…

        I can tell you from personal experience, a person in a legit defensive situation would never have been tossed in the pokey for a bs charge like discharging a weapon in public back then. Now, it’s a bit different. Changes like that are top down policy, and that only comes from one place, and one place alone. Speaks volumes.

      • My county sheriff department is world-renown for taking cover. Greetings from Broward County.

  5. Florida’s current statistic (as of March 31 2020) is 1,971,997 valid concealed weapon permits out of a population of 21,500,000, also known as 9.2%. If you back out underage population and those who do not qualify for the permit (felony record, under age, etc) you’re looking at roughly 14% of the adult population.

    It’s a start!

    • What’s more important is that those with a valid carry permit are the most law-abiding citizens out there. It’s vanishingly rare a Florida CWP holder ever commits a felony crime…

  6. I used to live in Salinas, CA. Damn glad I don’t. I have concealed weapon permits, an AR and AK, standard and larger than standard magazines for them. No wonder people are leaving and moving into North Idaho and other places. California is such an expensive shit hole.

    • And that’s why north Idaho and other places are starting to suck! People move away from the shit they voted and keep on voting the same way in a different place!

  7. Surprised at police corruption? “Shocked” as said in the movie Casablanca. When I was a kid (a long time ago) there was an old saying “Show me a cop and I’ll show you a crook.” This is much less so now but when local cops are the “gatekeepers,” and have broad discretion to issue something as coveted as a CC permit, no one should be surprised that corruption occurs. CA needs a “shall issue law.” as many other states have. If you meet certain criteria you get the permit.

    • Absent a court decree emanating from the Supreme Court, a shall issue law has as much chance of passing as a snowball’s chance of making it to noon on a summer afternoon in Salinas. (Or anywhere else in the Central Valley. It was 106 today, supposed to be 107 tomorrow.)

  8. Let’s follow miner49ers line of reasoning concerning the NRA debacle. There are four folks at the top of the chain in the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Dept. that are crooked. Let’s disband the entire department.

    • It would be a start, then move on to the Governement. A purge of the whole system in California would be a God send. Unfortunately it will never happen unless there is another Civil War.

      You obviously have never lived in California and / or delt with the Government there at length. Try dealing with something low level like the DMV and come back and see if you don’t agree.

      • According to the NYT the DNC has a wargamed outcome for November where Cali, Oregon and Washington State provoke exactly that outcome by succeeding from the union unless the military removes Trump.

        Apparently it really has come to that. Under the right electoral circumstances the DNC is prepared to offer the country a choice; coup or civil war.

        • Really don’t care if those 3 states leave the Union. In fact I would welcome it, they can take Hawaii too. As someone who has lived in pretty much all those states a bit cynical that they can be saved.

          I can only relate the California DMV to purgatory. It is some sort of punishment for my sins. Even though I left years ago they have suspended my California license I no longer have. Because of this they will not issue me a duplicate title for a car I still own but made the mistake of losing the original California title.

        • ” DNC is prepared to offer the country a choice; coup or civil war.”

          I’d like see that.

          Leftist snowflakes who faint dead away at the mere sight of a gun picking one up and using it? (I’m aware a lot of them would for a crack at one of us.)

          But the majority?

          And if they do decide to split, some might like a shot at invading them, simply for the ‘sport’ of it, AKA, ‘The most dangerous game’ style…

        • “they can try, but they will never secede.”

          I see what you did there, juxtaposed to your prior comment.

        • That seems more of an enticement than a threat. Keep in mind that: 1) the eastern counties of those states are conservative and would probably stick to the USA 2) CA depends on other states to supply their water and power. If only the coastal counties secede, they won’t be able to feed themselves, keep the lights on, and have drinking water. Take away their internet, and they have nothing left. It’d be like medieval castle sieges, except by throwing some switches instead of encamping armies.
          There won’t be a civil war because they won’t have an army. We’d lose ports for a while, but shipping through Canada and Mexico could take up the slack. Ridding their delegations from the House and Senate would give solid Republican majorities.

        • That explains a lot. I don’t consider any part of the West Coast to be part of the United States. Some people just like living in slavery.

        • They must, old son. They’re willing to give away large tracts of their nation instead of fight for it.

  9. Well, hell. What is the point of having a position of power if you can’t profit from it?

    Ruling over others is the inherent right of the powerful, otherwise you don’t know who to bribe.

    • I like bribes. The kind that says keep your dirty paws off our rights, and I’ll keep my crosshair off your skull.

  10. Strange, but you don’t encounter these problems in shall-issue jurisdictions.

    Oh, but you get problems nevertheless. Just ask Paul Valone of Grass Roots North Carolina (GOA affiliate) about Wake County Sheriff Baker’s anti-gun ploys. (Wake County is the state capital Raleigh, inhabited by the best pols money can buy.)

  11. California a state with great weather. Great national parks. Over 1000 miles of beautiful coastline. And no civil rights.
    Just like any southern state in the 1950’s. Come to think of it California has never been a great civil rights state. But you can walk around with a strap on dildo. Well fitted for public attire. And on days the government gives you permission. You can perform sex acts in public.

    “The Racist Origins of California’s Concealed Weapon Permit Law”

    • Oh your conservative Republican hero Reagan came from there. He hated both guns and non whites, especially blacks.

      What is it with you and dildos? Project much? At least you are not yet at the level Hannibal is and checking posters pants for penis size.

      • The sexually liberated crowd is easily distracted. They will give up their civil rights, and everyone else’s rights, in exchange for legalizing drugs and making any and all sex acts legal. Especially making sex acts legal in public. That has been their holy grail.

        But you can’t have a gun in public. But you can have sex in public. The racist LGBTQxyz leader, california Sate senator president Tom Ammiano, made the open carry of guns illegal in the state. After he saw law abiding black gay people, carrying guns.

        Unlike you, I hold the living accountable to correct the mistakes of dead people.

        The only thing people like you are interested in is “Bread and Circuses”.

  12. Ya know, TTAG? Reading this it occurs to me that you might consider moving beyond blog into actual journalism. I feel there’s a void you could fill beyond lobby groups, forums and industry-related pap. If you were able to actively engage organizations for-the-record like the Santa Clara sheriff’s dept., legislators, joe schmo gun owner – us – pro, and anti activists with pointed questions, you might actually become a noted 2A news authority. I can’t think of any that exist. Just a thought.

  13. Graft….or as my Dad used to say;” The only thing I’ve got against graft is……I’m not getting any.”

  14. It’s a well known and documented fact that overly strict regulations and arbitrary laws and restrictions invite corruption. Only the wealthy, well-connected, and sometimes those with the “correct” opinions thrive in that environment. Which political party is always pushing for super strict regulations on everything? It’s almost like they aren’t really for the little guy…

  15. I lived in Santa Clara County until this spring.

    The Board of Supervisors are corrupt, the district attorney is corrupt, as is the sheriff.

    I see a lot of people being implicated, but anybody who really gets prosecuted will be the small fish.

    May Issue actually functions fairly well in the majority of the state. The counties that Comprise the Bay Area, and the urban areas of the greater Los Angeles Area dictate that little people don’t get weapons permits.

  16. Here in MA, the DemoRATs figured out a long time ago how to “control” gun licenses. State law made the police chief, in each one of the 351 cities and towns, the person with “full discretion” to decide who is a “suitable person” to hold a license. He (or she) can just say “no” and there really isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. Short of hiring an attorney at great expense with little chance of success. Or you could move to a different town. Forget getting a license in any of the larger cities unless you’re “connected” somehow. Oh, and the chief can put “restrictions” on the license and can revoke it at any time for any reason. Or no reason.
    The 2A isn’t a right here. It’s a state granted “privelege”.

  17. Almost 40 years ago, now, I decided I needed a concealed carry permit. I live in Los Angeles County. I started researching the process (California is a “may issue” state, de jure, but a “fat chance” state, de facto). I was told, flat out, by an LA County Deputy Sheriff, “the Sheriff is running for re-election; a $5,000 donation to his campaign will probably do it.”

    As we all know, “gun control” is nothing about “guns”, but all about “control” – and graft, let’s not forget graft. My youngest graduates high school in 10 months, and when her graduation is over (assuming Gavin Gruesome even lets us have one), the last thing California will see of me is my taillights, headed for Wyoming. Screw these commie b@stards.

  18. Since they were issued fraudulently all of those carry permits should be immediately revoked and Zuckerberg et al’s security details should only be allowed rape whistles and phones to call 911.

  19. Great article. One problem that I have with it though, is you cite Sacramento’s desire to keep things like this. This isn’t decided by Sacramento. CCW permits here in California are issued by the local law enforcement agency. They have the sole power to determine what the requirements are to obtain one. The state actually has no say in this situation


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