SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Californians have flooded several sheriff offices with applications and inquiries for permits to carry concealed guns.
Sheriffs in some politically conservative or rural counties reported spikes in applications while other counties in the state experienced smaller increases.
Demand is being driven by a federal appeals court ruling last month that made it easier for residents to obtain the hard-to-get permits. About 56,000 Californians have a concealed-weapons permit in a state of 38 million residents.
The 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 13 that law-abiding residents need only to show a desire for self-defense rather than proving they were confronted with a "clear and present danger."
Since then, the authorities in charges of issuing the permits say they have received numerous applications and fielded even more phone calls seeking permission to carry a concealed weapon in California.
California's 58 county sheriffs and the state's police chiefs are authorized to grant the permits. Historically, police chiefs have largely let sheriffs in their counties handle permitting, according to the California Police Chiefs Association.
Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, head of the California State Sheriffs' Association, said application requests rose statewide in the days after the ruling. But Ahern said the association is not tracking the number of applications, and the state attorney general's office, citing law enforcement needs, declined to disclose how many applications have been received statewide since the ruling.
Some counties have received far more applications than others. The Orange County Sheriff Department, for instance, said it has received a little more than 1,000 applications since the ruling, which is about double the applications it receives annually. Ventura, San Joaquin, San Diego and several other smaller and rural counties also reported surges of hundreds of applications, which cost between $150 and $300 depending on the issuing agency. Those three counties reported receiving hundreds of applications since Feb. 13, far exceeding the numbers of requests for permits each county receives annually.
Ventura and San Joaquin have joined Orange in changing their permitting policy to make it easier to obtain a license to carry a concealed gun. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department said it is accepting applications under the looser policy, but is awaiting a final ruling before reviewing the applications.
Alameda County reported a smaller increase of dozens of applications.
California is one of nine states that require government permission to carry a concealed weapon.
Until the 9th Circuit's three-judge ruling last month, state law required applicants to show "good cause" that they needed a permit because a "clear and present danger" existed. The court struck that requirement in its ruling, which is on hold after California Attorney General Kamala Harris petitioned the court to rehear the case with a special 11-judge panel.
Although Orange, Ventura and San Joaquin have loosened their policies by only requiring applicants to show a desire for self-defense, no permits have yet been issued because it takes at least three months to process applications. Orange County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jeff Hallock said his department hopes the legal issues will be clarified before a new permit is issued under the new rules.
"The sheriff does respect the ruling of the three-judge panel," Hallock said.
The ruling arises from a nationwide National Rifle Association legal campaign to scale back gun-control laws that was launched after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 struck down Washington D.C.'s handgun ban and ruled that every law-abiding citizen has the right to possess a handgun in the home.