The Orange County Sheriff's Department may hire temporary staff to help process a flood of concealed weapons permit applications in the wake of its decision to loosen the county's gun restrictions.
More than 500 people have applied for concealed weapons permits in Orange County in the last 10 days, nearly as many as applied all of last year.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced the policy change last week in response to a pro-gun U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that California counties may no longer require residents who want to carry concealed firearms to demonstrate a specific, individualized need to do so.
Because the ruling is not yet final, and if successfully appealed may never take effect, Hutchens said applicants are encouraged to submit a statement of "good cause," even though it's no longer required.
Still, Hutchens told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that her department plans to follow the law as it now exists.
"Regardless of what her personal positions are, she feels she needs to abide by what the law is," department spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock explained last week.
In the meantime, Supervisor Todd Spitzer called on county staff members Tuesday to explore options for expediting the permit approvals — including the hiring of extra personnel — to help gun owners take advantage of the current policy.
"Let's say there was a majority of the board who was sympathetic to the expeditious processing of these permits ... " Spitzer asked Hutchens. "Could we approve additional personnel to help you process these permits as quickly as possible?"
"We are in budget discussions," Hutchens replied. "I'd be happy to consider it."
Spitzer asked for an item that could allow the department to take on one or two people to help process the applications be placed on the board's next agenda.
Typically, one person processes the applications, Hallock said.
Hallock said the hundreds of applications that have flooded in have been overwhelming. In 2013, the department processed between 530 and 540 concealed weapon permits.
"Obviously, we're inundated," he said.
If all or most of the 500 are approved, it would mark more than a 50% increase in the number of people licensed to carry concealed weapons in Orange County. As of last week, Hallock said, there were 906 active permits in the county.
Last year, he said, about 20% of permit applications were denied.
Though Hutchens said after the meeting that she couldn't estimate how much longer it would take for applications to be processed than normal, she plans to meet with staff members in coming weeks to examine the issue more closely.