Concealed carry weapons applications spike in East Bay


The Supreme Court’s decision this summer to loosen gun restrictions and broaden the ability for people to secretively carry firearms has prompted a deluge of concealed carry weapons permits applications across the East Bay.

A backlog of about 1,500 applications exists in Alameda County and more than 1,000 people are waiting for their applications to be processed in neighboring Contra Costa County — exponentially higher figures than anything previously encountered in either county, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The ever-growing backlogs have stressed local sheriff’s offices while raising the ire of East Bay gun owners, many of whom complained of a byzantine and confusing process that shows few signs of improving.

Scores of hopeful applicants recently resorted to Reddit and online forums to complain about the situation in Contra Costa, while arguing that officials there should do more to hasten the application process. Many complained that they’ve received few responses from sheriff’s offices to even the most basic inquiries about the process.

“There’s a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding with the actual process because the information on the sheriff’s website is so vague,” said Alex Urikh, 21, of Walnut Creek. He accused the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office of “dragging their feet,” while lamenting that other gun owners across the state had experienced similar delays.

The backlogs offer a glimpse into the impact of the Supreme Court’s June decision, which was its most significant ruling on firearms restrictions in more than a decade. In one fell swoop, the decision placed in question laws across the Bay Area and other parts of the country that had — until this year — been among the most difficult places in the nation to legally carry a concealed gun.

By a 6-3 margin, the Supreme Court struck down a New York gun law that gave broad discretion to law enforcement agencies on who could legally carry a concealed weapon. Specifically, the court took issue with a requirement that authorities find “proper cause” for people to secretively carry a firearm. It found that gun owners’ rights had been violated by requiring them to demonstrate a specific reason for carrying a concealed weapon.

Most Bay Area counties, along with about half of California’s counties, had policies similar to those in New York.

Gun control advocates decried the decision as a dangerous move that would proliferate gun deaths across a nation that already faced stubbornly high rates of gun violence. It came shortly after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, N.Y., raising concerns among gun control advocates that it would further blunt efforts to prevent more mass shootings.

But gun right’s advocates hailed the move as a sign that the Supreme Court — which has long been reticent to hear gun control cases — would become more amenable to expanding gun rights across the nation.

The ruling did not affect the ability for authorities to place other, less subjective requirements on concealed carry weapons permits. In Contra Costa County, for example, residents must still submit fingerprints to the California Department of Justice and pass a background check. Applicants also must undergo an interview and attend a firearm safety class, along with paying a $160 fee.

Even with those lingering requirements, gun owners across the East Bay appear to have quickly flocked to get a permit of their own.

Prior to the court’s ruling, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office received only about 20 concealed carry weapons applications a month. That number jumped after the court’s ruling to several hundred a month, the agency said in a press release Thursday.

Only about 300 concealed carry weapons’ permits were on file at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office prior to the June ruling, said Lt. Ray Kelly, a sheriff’s spokesman said. That figure could swell five-fold if every current application is approved — a far more likely possibility now, given the court’s ruling.

As a result, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office plans to review whether to delegate that task of issuing permits back to local police departments — upending the sheriff’s office’s decades-long practice of handling such permit requests, Kelly said. In California, county sheriff’s offices typically oversee the permitting.

Even the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Office — an agency that rarely handled such permit requests — has seen a marked increase in applications. The sheriff’s office received 65 concealed carry weapons permit applications in the months after the Supreme Court’s ruling, up from the two applications it normally received each year before the decision.

Simply put, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have the resources to handle the crushing demand for permits, Kelly said. Of the roughly 1,500 applications received by the agency, only about a couple dozen have been granted due to the paperwork and bureaucratic difficulty of processing each request, he said.

“We’ve never seen this number before,” said Kelly, adding that other law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area have encountered similar increases. “It’s a massive change in the way we do business, based on the Supreme Court ruling.”

In contrast, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office said Thursday it plans to hire a sergeant and at least one more specialist to help process applications. Exactly when that backlog will begin to ease, however, remains unclear. The agency did not respond to messages seeking how many permits it had approved since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June.

Already, Contra Costa County residents are turning to at least one local police department to hasten their application process.

In light of the Supreme Court decision, the Concord Police Department implemented a program on Nov. 1 that allowed city residents to obtain a concealed carry weapons permit directly through the department.

Few other police departments have opted to follow suit — prompting frustration among many Contra Costa gun owners.

Sebastian Prooth, 36, of Oakley, applied to Contra Costa County at the end of August but has not been told what number in line he is, only that he would be contacted at some point. He said he jumped at the chance at getting a permit after the Supreme Court ruling, due to the difficulty of previously gaining clearance while living in Santa Clara County.

Prooth works in the private security industry and already has certificates related to handling of firearms, which adds to his frustration about Contra Costa’s delay, he said. The Oakley Police Department declined to create a program similar to the one in Concord.

This week, he framed the issue as infringing on his 2nd Amendment rights, even after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We should have some expedition when it comes to being able to be a good guy with a gun on a scene, before the police can show up and possibly save lives,” Prooth said.


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