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Guns in the OC – Will New Rules Turn the OC into the Wild West?

CCW briefcase-flexibilityBy now, you have probably heard that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the longstanding law in California concerning concealed weapons permits. A ruling of a 3 judge panel of the Court said California Counties are wrong to require concealed weapons applicants to show “good cause”. Instead, the judges agreed with the majority of states that “self defense” or “defense of the family” are good enough reasons to ask for a permit.

In the past, sheriffs and police have wielded a hug amount of power over who does and who does not get a CCW in their county. While Los Angeles has only issued a handful of permits in the past, usually to judges and celebrities, Orange County’s Sheriff Hutchens has been a bit more liberal with several hundred permits issued. Still, it was difficult for the average citizen to obtain a permit under the old rules and often required the applicant to show they have a substantial danger before a permit is issued.

The 9th Circuit Court has now changed all of that:

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.

Chuck Michel, an attorney who represented several San Diego County residents who were denied a permit and who filed a lawsuit in 2009, praised the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling.

“This decision is a very dramatic confirmation of the Supreme Court ruling,” Michel said.

O’Scannlain wrote that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s requirement that applicants must provide documentation such as a restraining order to show a “special need” for a permit “impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.”

The ruling reversed a lower-court decision tossing out the lawsuit and ordered the judge to rule in favor of the applicants.

San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has a limited amount of time to appeal the decision. He can either ask an 11 member panel of the 9th Circuit Court to re-hear the case or ask the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. It was the Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment Heller Case that influenced the circuit court judges in their decision.

Of course, Gore can always choose to do nothing, let the ruling stand, and change his policy. That’s not likely considering there are mulitple and conflicting rulings from around the country.

Columnist Dan Walters recently chimed in on the gun control issue from Sacramento, wondering if California politicians zealous hatred of guns and the resulting spate of recent gun and ammunition legislation hasn’t gone too far.

Even Governor Brown pushed back on legislation to ban assault weapons. “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights,” Brown said in his veto message.

As Walters points out, however, Brown did sign other legislation ensuring California’s position as one of the most restrictive towards gun ownership.

Perhaps – as Brown implied in his veto message – it’s going too far, piling on gun restrictions zealously with little thought to their efficacy and even less to their constitutionality.

The era’s four most gut-wrenching political issues have been capital punishment, abortion, gay marriage and gun control, and all four involve either explicit or implicit constitutional rights.

California has been expansive of rights in the first three, and a federal appellate court seems to be telling California that it cannot continue to restrict gun ownership without violating the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of the right to bear arms.

Although Walters believes the Supreme Court will have the final say in how far states can go to restrict guns, it is more likely the issue will be sent back to the full 9th Circuit Court to be heard first. The only thing to push it directly to SCOTUS is the fact there are multiple and conflicting rulings from other courts and maybe it is time to make some hard decisions.

Here in Orange County, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens wasted no time in changing her policy to conform to the court ruling. Saying the Sheriff would abide by the law, sheriff spokeperson Jeff Hallock said:

“Bottom line is the sheriff is going to abide by the law,” said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a spokesman for O.C. Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“Before the court’s decision, good cause was something that was evaluated by the sheriff. What she considers good cause may not be same as Los Angeles, Riverside or San Diego as good cause. But in looking at the decision, some of the subjectiveness is taken out of it.”

Hutchens came under fire when she first took the helm of the OC Sheriffs department from disgraced sheriff, Mike Carona. Carona had issued hundreds of CCWs to residents of the county. And, even though many of those were deemed to be of political favor, it was clear that he had a liberal view of “good cause” when it came to applications.

When Hutchens took the reins, she immediately reviewed and revoked hundreds of CCW permits. Under the guise of cleaning up a political issue, it became clear that she was not going to be as loose as Carona had been with CCWs. When the Board of Supervisors called her on the carpet to see what would be done about the issue, Hutchens stood her ground, essentially saying she was not the lackey of the Board that hired her, rather she would run her office as she saw fit. That and a CCW for Supervisor Shawn Nelson pretty much put the issue to rest.

Hutchens claimed that she was approving ninety percent of applications for CCW. However, by her own numbers, her first year showed that she approved only eighty percent, or about 400, of the approximately 500 applications for a permit. And, in case you are wondering, over 3000 peace officers call Orange County home so you are more likely to meet an off duty peace officer who is carrying concealed than a private citizen.

Now, we see that Hutchens will follow the law. The Sheriff, who by consensus holds sole authority over CCWs issued in Orange County, has seen an increase in the number of inquiries into obtaining a CCW. Since the decision by the court, the sheriff’s office has received 500 applications. That is as many as the department received in all of the previous year. The rate of applications will probably drop as time goes on. However, the department is saying that, with the current number of applicants, those applying today will not likely see a permit for six months. OC Supervisors have suggested augmenting funds to allow for more interviews, the main issue with the applications at this time.  And, in the end, most people are not likely to want to bother with the cost, background check and 16 hours of training.

Will all of this turn The Real OC into the Real Wild West? We think there will be a significant increase in the number of permits issued, at least in the beginning. The ruling means California joins 38 other states that either have no restrictions or shall-issue permits. And California, with it’s previously restrictive CCW law, has the same or higher murder rates as Texas and other less restrictive states. That should be an indication that, although there may be more permits issued, they do not contribute significantly to the crime rate. And, states like Arizona with open carry allowed, are not more prone to violence. This lends creedence to the saying that criminals aren’t going to bother with a permit.

What lies in store for Californians who would like to obtain a permit is unclear. If the ruling stands, it is likely the ultra-liberals in Sacramento will go into overtime to craft restrictive laws that will keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens while doing little to stop criminal activity. You can bet that Darrel Steinberg, the author of the recent assault ban attempt, and Leland Yee, a rabid anti-gun Senator, are already working hard to find ways to eliminate guns in California. Their efforts, like those of past legilsators, have done little to protect the citizens of California.

Perhaps it is time to let citizens protect themselves.

Are Guns Really the Problem?



There is an intersting article on The Liberal OC regarding the publishing of CCW permit holders in Orange County. Now, before you push this article aside and run to the Lib, let me tell you they only published a few notable names such as Todd Spitzer and Deborah Pauly (scary, huh?). The gist of the article, apparently, is to show the good sense of our county sheriff in issuing CCW permits while, in some way, trying to equate the Second Amendment to the right to healthcare. While I respect the Lib writers’ opinions, I have to disagree on the issue they bring up. It should be noted The Liberal OC has published a series of articles on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. We are certainly not of the same opinion.

From the Lib article:

We think there are too many guns out there.  The overflowing crowds at this weekend’s gun show in Costa Mesa show Orange County’s appetite for automatic weapons is near insatiable.  We find it fascinating that the same people, the Tea Party Patriots, who so demanded President Obama’s birth certificate, find inquiries into background checks and licenses for firearms an invasion of privacy.  And while gun ownership is a right, so is the right NOT to own one.  When liberals state healthcare should be a right, we’re scoffed at by Libertarians and Conservatives who cling to their guns but fail to acknowledge getting sick is not a choice.

The current upsurge of law abiding citizens to seek firearms is typical anytime an incident such as Sandy Hook occurs and the sitting President and Congress start making noises of further gun control. In the past few days, it has become apparent all the President’s men (and women) are using recent events to push for stricter gun control. Of particular interest is the push to ban “assault style” weapons. That is because they feel it is the easiest “in” to obtaining stricter controls on weapons in the hands of citizens. I am not sure why the writers at The Liberal OC thought that California would be excluded from the run on guns. And, it is not just in that bastion of Republicanism,  Orange County. I suspect it would be difficult to find an assault style weapon (which California already bans most of anyway) for a reasonable price at a store or a gun show. The number of attendees at last week’s gunshow, by the way, was roughly double the norm, based solely on my estimate as an occasional attendee.

Plainly speaking, it is asinine to equate the right to own firearms to the “right” to healthcare. Show me where, in the US Constitution there is a Constitutional right to healthcare? And, please don’t quote the purusit of happiness, etc. That doesn’t fly as it does not enumerate healthcare as a right. There has never been a significant court case, to my knowledge, that even addresses the issue. That leaves healthcare, until the new mandates come in, left largely to the individual. In reality, however, most anyone -indigent or not- has access to basic healthcare. And, it remains to be seen whether the so-called Obamacare will grant any higher access than the current system, at least here in California, already does (I admit, I am no expert in managed care or socialist medicine).

On the other hand, the right to keep and bear arms has been tested and proven, by the highest court in the land, that it is an individual right, not just a state’s right to “keep” a militia armed and ready. That would be the Heller Decision that was quoted by their article, later addressed for the individual states by the McDonald Decision.

So, according to the article we have approximately 409 persons living or working in the county who possess a CCW permit. Add to that another thousand or so off duty peace officers and another thousand or so retired peace officers, all of whom are authorized by law to carry a firearm. In all, there are about 45,000 CCWs authorized by various entities throughout the state of California and probably another 100,000 or so people that are further authorized by law. Still a paltry number in comparison to a population of 38 million.

There is no doubt that California has the most stringent (overall) gun laws on the books. The Brady Bunch gives CA an A+ on their firearms report card. And crime is down, particularly violent crime (unless you look at the Register’s headlines yesterday). Yet, 39 states in the United States have “shall issue” CCW laws that allow any law abiding citizen to obtain a CCW for self-defense. A few states do not require a permit to openly carry a firearm. Arizona and Alaska come to mind. One state, Vermont, does not even have a permit system. Their law says if you have a firearm and want to carry it, do so as long as you are legally allowed to. California is one of only nine “may issue” states where the discretion is left up to the issuing authority.

In Texas, which is a “Shall Issue” state, there are about 123,000 licenses for concealed carry. The population is just under 26 million. That would be only 0.4% of the population. I think other states would probably be about the same. Oh yeah, crime is down across the nation, too.

What is missing here is, how many law abiding, CCW holding citizens actually get into trouble because of their firearms? The Violence Policy Center has a few statistics, although they don’t break them out the way they should be. Let’s just take them at face value for the moment.

From May, 2007 to the present, there were 14 law enforcement officers killed by CCW holders. Of those, one permit was expired and at least two others should not have legally been allowed to carry due to prior convictions or mental illness. There were another 484 deaths caused by CCW permit holders across the country. Only three of those, during the reporting time, were by California permit holders. Oh, wait…. that would be one by a CCW permit holder and two by a security guard licensed to carry his firearm openly on duty (it pays to read these reports rather than just look at the numbers).

Aside from the confusion by the report writers of who exactly is a CCW holder, a closer look would show that many of these permit holders should have been denied a permit that was, nonetheless, issued. And, that says much toward the apathy of law enforcement and the bureaucracy to actually enforce the current laws on the books.

In one case in Washington State, the perpetrator’s family told the authorities years before the incident where he killed 5 people before turning the gun on himself, that Ian Stanwicki was mentally ill. His father told reporters, “The response to us was, there’s nothing we can do, he’s not a threat to himself or others, or we haven’t had a report of it, or we haven’t had to pick him up—call us when it’s worse. And now it’s too late—much worse now, six people are dead.” So, even when authorities are notified that something is amiss (this is not an isolated incident in the VPC report), they sometimes do not take appropriate action.

Add to that the relatively few firearms deaths compared to the number of owners and permit holders and one has to wonder, if the sensationalism the press makes toward each incident were absent, would there still be such a loud call from the anti-gun folks?

Why don’t we address the real culprit, mental illness. Because, one thing I noticed while perusing the VPC report is the high number of mentally ill people that should not have been allowed to possess a firearm at all, much less obtain a CCW permit, had current law been enforced. Certainly, in the mass shootings over the years, the perpetrators displayed outward signs of mental illness or had been previously convicted of domestic violence or other crimes. All of these would have precluded someone from owning firearms in most instances and, in all instances, from obtaining a CCW permit. Until we address the real cause of these heinous acts, mental illness and an apathetic attitude toward enforcing current laws, we will continue to occasionally see them, stricter gun laws or not.