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O.C. flooded with nearly 3,000 concealed weapons applications

O.C. flooded with nearly 3,000 concealed weapons applications
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The staggering backlog of applications for concealed weapons permits in Orange County has grown to almost 3,000 and some applicants said they've been told it may be years before their applications are fully processed.

The flood of applications for concealed weapons permits was triggered by a pro-gun appeals court ruling that relaxed the restrictions on who could carry weapons.

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Orange County Sheriff's Department officials said they are scrambling to speed up the process and deal with the thousands of gun applications that have rolled in since February.

Since the court ruling last month, the Sheriff's Department has received four times the applications it typically receives in an entire year.

"There's just no way this pace keeps up," said Lt. Jeff Hallock, the department's spokesman.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said she would eliminate an in-person gun inspection component of the application process to help streamline the process

All the while, the department continues to navigate a kind of legal limbo. State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has said she plans to appeal the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, in the absence of an appeal by San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, who was the named defendant in the original case.

"We're still in that kind of leeway area where the courts can still withdraw the decision," Hallock said. "Following that, we may continue down the same course or we may have to divert and go in another direction."

Hutchens has said that she intends to "follow the law."

"That is what I did prior to the law change and that is what I'm doing today," she told the Orange County Board of Supervisors earlier this month.

While supervisors voted to support the hiring of about 15 retired deputies on a temporary basis to help handle the onslaught, Hallock said that may not ultimately be the best course of action.

"We're not prepared to commit 15 full-time personnel," he said.

He said that officials are in the process of identifying potential part-time staff, possibly from the department's professional standards division.

Hallock added that the delay in processing is in no way a "stall tactic," despite claims to the contrary.

Still, Orange County applicants say they're growing impatient, waiting to see if their interview and background check appointments — which now are set for as late as mid-2016 — will be adjusted.

"My appointment is set for Sept. 9, 2016," Irvine-based attorney Mark Adams wrote in an email. "In any event, this outrageously long queue is a hard pill to swallow, given that the pent-up demand for permits was caused by a violation of the constitutional rights of Orange County citizens in the first place."

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Russell Mallette— a Costa Mesa resident who works for a private security company and owns a small business — said he wished that those with applications pending before the change in policy would be given "favorable precedence" over those who jumped online as soon as the court ruling came down.

He said he was told when he first submitted an application in late 2012 that his work may not be sufficient "good cause" to carry a concealed weapon, so rather than risk getting rejected, he opted to put his application on hold.

"I don't want to seem like one of those guys who says, 'Oh, this sounds cool, I'm going to get my permit,'" he said. "I take every course my industry offers me – crisis negotiation, taught by an FBI agent ... I've got the certs on the wall to back it up."

As of now, his interview appointment is set for Jan. 13, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.

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