In the two months since the court sided with a group of gun owners and found California's law on concealed-weapons permits unconstitutional, nearly 4,000 residents in this county of 3.1 million people have applied for one, eight times the number usually logged in a year. While no permit is required to own a gun, California residents must obtain one to carry a concealed weapon outside their home or business.
The surge in Orange County and, to a lesser extent, a handful of other counties stunned law enforcement officials and offered a striking demonstration of the frustration of California gun owners. It also showed the complicated politics of weapon regulation in a state with a large and ever-expanding catalog of gun control legislation.
The Ninth Circuit panel's ruling was appealed, and has been stayed. Nonetheless, Orange County has blazed ahead. It has spent $1.6 million to hire 14 additional part-time workers, many working through the weekend, in response to the crush of applications, which has overwhelmed county telephones and office workers. There is now a 30-month wait to schedule the required in-person hearing to obtain a permit.
Additionally, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens encouraged residents to apply for permits, a decision that's irked local gun control supporters. "I'm flabbergasted...I cannot think of a rational reason for her to be taking this position at this time," Charles Blek, president of the Orange County chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Times.
Yet, Sheriff Hutchens has also butted heads with the NRA when she said that she would review the 1,100 concealed carry permits issued by her predecessor, who was ousted in a corruption scandal that included carry permits to donors, according to the Times. Nevertheless, even as crime continues to drop in her county, she won't be putting up obstacles to curb California residents' civil right to own firearms - and carry them concealed in public.
We're not going to try to tell them there's a low crime rate or it's safe on the streets...If they feel that under the current guidelines that they need it for personal safety and they pass the background of moral character, then we are going to issue it to them," she said.