A recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court was supposed to expand who could carry a concealed firearm by removing some of the more subjective requirements, but it’s actually gotten more difficult in Long Beach where bureaucratic changes have left residents with no clear process to apply for a permit.
In California, local police agencies and sheriff departments can issue permits to carry concealed firearms in public, but until this month, the Long Beach Police Department had a longstanding agreement with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to handle the application process for Long Beach residents. The LBPD says that agreement expired on Aug. 1, and the sheriff’s department decided it would no longer process applications for Long Beach or other cities that don’t contract with the sheriff’s department for police services.
The sheriff’s decision comes amid a crush of new concealed weapon applications following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a New York State law that required applicants to show “good cause” for needing to carry a concealed firearm.
New York’s concealed carry law was very similar to California’s and the decision prompted the California Attorney General’s office to warn district attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs that they could no longer require concealed carry applicants to show “good cause”—although they could still use tools like background checks and interviews to screen applicants for “good moral character.”
It’s not clear why the sheriff decided to stop processing applications for Long Beach (the department did not respond to questions sent Wednesday), but the decision means Long Beach will now have to develop its own screening process. In the past, the department has issued concealed carry permits to only retired law enforcement officers. For the time being, that policy remains unchanged, though it is under review, according to LBPD spokesperson Richard Mejia.
In the meantime, Long Beach residents hoping to get a concealed carry permit are in limbo.
Steve Turner applied for a permit six months ago. The president of the Long Beach chapter of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, Turner said he applied for a permit from the sheriff’s department back in the late winter, before the Supreme Court’s decision, when the LBPD-LASD agreement was still in effect.
Since then, he hasn’t heard anything regarding his application, he said.
“Six months ago we had to have a good reason to get one,” he said. “Now, unless they find us of ill character, they have to give us a permit.”
Turner, who also works as a range instructor, said he often has to transport firearms and would feel safer with a concealed weapon. He already has a permit issued from Arizona, which is valid in 37 states, though not California, he said.
Under its new policy, the LA County Sheriff’s Department says people like Turner must apply through their local police chiefs and receive a letter denying them before asking for permission from the sheriff’s department.
That could be difficult considering the LBPD doesn’t currently issue such letters, according to Mejia.
Because he applied before the changes, it’s unclear if that requirement will apply to Turner, but with no news yet on his application, he said there’s not much else to do but wait.
“I’m assuming I’m in the queue,” he said. “They must (issue or deny a permit), but how are they going to do it?”
Law enforcement agencies across the state are struggling with that same question now that the Supreme Court’s decision in June upended the permitting process for many jurisdictions in California.
Gun rights organizations like the National Rifle Association saw the ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen as a “landmark win” in the effort to make it easier for people to get permits to carry firearms in states like California, according to an NRA statement issued shortly after the Supreme Court decision.
In response to the ruling, the California Attorney General’s office sent a legal alert to all district attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs in the state trying to give guidance on what standards they could still use. Even if they couldn’t require applicants to show “good cause” why they needed a concealed weapon, they could still require them to show “good moral character,” the AG’s office said.
To define a legal judgment of “good moral character,” the Attorney General’s legal alert quoted approvingly from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which said that it can include “consideration of honesty, trustworthiness, diligence, reliability, respect for the law, integrity, candor, discretion, observance of fiduciary duty, respect for the rights of others, absence of hatred and racism, fiscal stability, profession-specific criteria such as pledging to honor the Constitution and uphold the law, and the absence of criminal conviction.”
The California Rifle & Pistol Association disagrees with the AG’s assertion on good moral character, stating that using “subjective morality factors” in the application process is “not only plainly unreasonable, they are also plainly unconstitutional,” according to a June 29 letter to the LASD.
As police agencies like the LBPD try to develop their own permitting processes, the legal landscape will likely continue to change.
State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale, for instance, has introduced SB 918, which aims to make the state’s concealed carry regulations more restrictive while also complying with the Supreme Court ruling, according to CalMatters.