Expediting of gun permits sought

The Orange County Sheriff's Department may hire temporary staff to help process a flood of concealed-weapons permit applications in the wake of a loosening of the county's gun restrictions.

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens announced the policy change last week in response to a 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 the county could ultimately revert to its more stringent policy, Hutchens said applicants are encouraged though not required to submit a statement of "good cause."

Still, Hutchens told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that her department plans to follow the law as it exists.

In the meantime, Supervisor Todd Spitzer called on county staff members to explore options for expediting the permit approvals — including the hiring of extra personnel — to help prospective permittees who hope to 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 said, addressing 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 to be placed on the board's next agenda that could allow the department to take on one or two people to help process the applications.

Typically, one person processes the applications, said Lt. Jeff Hallock, a Sheriff's Department spokesman.

He added that the department has received more than 500 applications since the court's ruling.

In 2013, the department processed between 530 and 540 concealed weapon permits, meaning that roughly the same number of people applied in the span of about 10 days as did in an entire calendar year.

"Obviously, we're inundated," he said.

As of last week, Hallock said, there were 906 active permits in the county, a number that falls in a range that's been typical over the past couple years.

Last year, he added, about 20% of permit applications were denied.

While Hutchens said after the meeting that she couldn't estimate how much longer than usual it may take for applications to be processed, she plans to meet with staff members in coming weeks to examine the issue more closely.

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