In California, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens unveiled a new policy that could cause “dozens, if not hundreds,” of concealed carry permit holders to lose permits issued by the previous sheriff. Did these law-abiding Orange County citizens do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical to cost them their permits?
No, they’ve merely fallen afoul of a sheriff that spent the bulk of her career as a deputy in the Los Angeles County prison system, and who apparently has issues with trusting those citizens she was appointed to serve.
Hutchens’ new policy requires that to get a concealed firearm permit, applicants must prove there is a legitimate threat to their safety and agree to undergo possible psychological, polygraph, or medical testing.
There are just over three million people in Orange County, and just 1,100 concealed carry permits. By way of comparison, Wake County, NC, has a population of more than 787,000 and the sheriff has issued 6,593 valid concealed carry permits. Why the huge discrepancy from one part of the country to another?
North Carolina is a “shall issue” state, meaning that all citizens who meet state-mandated requirements — which include proof of residency, being at least 21 years of age, submitting fingerprints, passing a State Bureau of Investigation background check, attending a certified handgun/firearms safety class, participating in a range check/qualification before a certified trainer, and paying a required fee — shall be issued a permit. So far, more than 100,000 North Carolinians have obtained their concealed carry permits in a population of 8.8 million.
California, however, is a “may issue” state, meaning that individual sheriffs have a great deal of latitude in awarding permits based upon criteria they arbitrarily select. This means that in some areas such as San Francisco there is effectively no way to get a concealed carry permit, while Orange County had one of the more liberal issuance policies until Hutchens was selected on a 3-2 vote.
Is it unfair to hold a California sheriff up to national scrutiny? While Orange County’s crackdown on justifying carry permits isn’t out of line with that of other restrictive California sheriffs, it does go against the grain of a steady national push towards more liberal concealed carry laws across the United States that began in Florida in 1987. To date, 37 states are now regarded as “shall issue” states, while nine are “may issue” and just two — Wisconsin and Illinois — are states with no provision for concealed carry at all. Two other states, Alaska and Vermont, have no restrictions on concealed carry and a permit is not required.
The steady trend towards more liberal concealed carry is also tied to a reduction in violent crime, though a rise in property crimes. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but the presence of a firearm in the hands of a potential victim often prevents a violent crime from occurring.
Hutchens’ decision goes against the grain of liberalizing concealed carry laws in communities across the United States, and she is now encountering blowback from Orange County’s permit holders, including the 442 who have been sent letters saying that they have to justify keeping the permit they were issued by the previous sheriff. “There’s so much important stuff going on with the department, I didn’t expect there to be so much feedback on this,” she is quoted as saying. That Hutchens is surprised by the anger of the existing permit holders is a measure of how out of touch she is with her constituents.
If Sheriff Hutchens’ priority as a law enforcement official is to protect those citizens within her jurisdiction, then she is failing those she is sworn to protect. An ever-growing body of real-world evidence gathered across the United States shows that in areas both urban and rural, more liberal concealed carry laws reduce violent crime. By potentially reducing the number of permit holders by as much as half, Sheriff Hutchens can probably expect an increase in violent crimes in Orange County.
Somehow, I don’t think that is what the citizens of Orange County were hoping for when they put her in charge.