With restrictions lifted, Sheriff Villanueva says gun permits will rise in L.A. County
People in Los Angeles County are no longer required to explain why they need to be armed when applying for permits to carry guns in public, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Wednesday.
The change in the permitting process comes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last week that such restrictions are unconstitutional.
As state legislators scramble to rewrite California’s gun laws to adhere to the high court’s decision while also trying to keep some checks in place on the ability to be armed in public, Villanueva said the Sheriff’s Department is seeing an increase in so-called concealed carry permit applications. He speculated that eventually 50,000 people in L.A. County could receive permission to arm themselves in public.
“We are retooling our operation to a shall-issue standard,” Villanueva said during a live social media broadcast on Wednesday, referring to a lenient standard under which law enforcement agencies must issue a weapon permit if the applicant has satisfied some minimal requirements.
Villanueva said his estimate of how many people in L.A. County might seek permits was based on the county’s population and the number of permits that have been issued in other counties already using the lax standard.
It would be a staggering increase. As of this week, there were 3,145 active permits issued by the Sheriff’s Department, Villanueva said.
California, with some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, has long required gun owners to show “good cause” to be armed in public. To meet that bar, an applicant had to prove there was a credible threat to their safety, their job required them to be armed or they had some other legitimate reason.
California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said the “good cause” standard is probably unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. vs. Bruen.
The high court’s ruling found that New York’s “proper cause” restriction is unconstitutional because “it prevents law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”
Well before the ruling, Villanueva was already on a mission to dramatically increase the number of people in the county permitted to carry concealed guns.
In mid-2020, when the department had just 155 active permits, he announced plans to push through a fivefold increase. He said that previous sheriffs kept the bar to receive them too high, and that more people carrying concealed handguns would be an effective countermeasure to rising crime and efforts on the political left to reduce police funding.
“Because we have less cops on the street, more crooks, less consequences — you know, what could go wrong with that combination, right?” Villanueva said last year. “We’re recognizing that the threat to the residents is increasing. So we’re responding accordingly.”
Until now, residents of Los Angeles and other municipalities in the county could bypass their cities’ more restrictive policies and apply directly to the Sheriff’s Department for a permit. With the recent Supreme Court ruling and the loosening of the application process, he said people need to apply to their local police departments.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Department said it’s evaluating the Supreme Court’s ruling and awaiting possible changes to California’s statutes.
State lawmakers for months have been working on Senate Bill 918, which would outline where guns are banned in California, including school campuses, public transportation, bars and public parks. Permit applicants would also have to undergo a more rigorous application process and complete more training requirements.
Currently in California, applicants need to pass a background check, complete a firearms safety course and show proof of residency, employment or business in a local area.
Other agencies are also seeing an influx of applications. Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said his agency removed the “good cause” question from its application the day of the Supreme Court ruling. He said the department has issued close to 18,500 permits and has received about 1,800 applications since the ruling.
“My policy and county of Riverside policy was more of a ‘shall issue’ anyway,” Bianco told The Times on Wednesday. “The ruling didn’t really change much about how we do business.”
Times staff writer Hannah Wiley contributed to this report.
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