Tuesday, October 6, 2015
C.A. Revives Sheriff’s Policy Restricting Gun Permit Applications
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department policy under which the sheriff would not process applications for concealed firearms permits from residents of cities with their own police departments, unless and until the local police chief has denied a permit, is not preempted by state law, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Div. Eight overturned a writ of mandate granted by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deirdre Hill, who in April of last year directed the department to consider all applications, including those from persons who live in incorporated cities not policed by the sheriff.
Relevant provisions of the Penal Code prohibit the carrying of a concealed weapon, absent the issuance of a permit by a sheriff or a municipal police chief to an applicant who meets certain requirements. Among other things, the applicant must demonstrate “good moral character” and “good cause” for the issuance of the permit.
In addition, the applicant must live or work within the county in order to obtain a sheriff-issued permit, or live within the city to obtain a permit from the local police chief, and complete a course of training. The law expressly authorizes a police chief to delegate responsibility for the granting and renewal of licenses to the sheriff of the county in which the city is located.
In bringing a mandate petition, the Calguns Foundation, Inc. and residents of Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Monterey Park challenged the policy. They claimed that it violates the statutory scheme—as well as the equal protection clauses—by permitting the sheriff to avoid processing applications from qualified applicants if they live in cities with their own police departments, while still processing applications from residents of unincorporated areas and contract cities.
The Sheriff’s Department website says it contracts with 42 cities, leaving 46 with their own departments. In response to the petition, the department said the policy serves the public by allowing local police—who are better able to determine whether local conditions make the issuance of the permit necessary—to make the determination, and by promoting comity between the sheriff and the local agencies.
The petitioners eventually dropped their equal protection claim, and the trial judge ruled that Salute v. Pitchess (1976) 61 Cal.App.3d 557 supported their statutory arguments.
The plaintiff in that case, local attorney Eugene Salute—a three-time judicial candidate and now retired from law practice—represented himself after the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department refused to allow him to apply for a concealed firearms permit.
The department, he explained, told him there were no application forms because its policy was simply not to issue such permits, even though it had discretion to do so by statute. The appeals court ruled that the sheriff had discretion to grant or deny a permit following investigation, but could not simply refuse to exercise that discretion.
Salute, who as a licensed private investigator was allowed to carry a gun openly on his person or in his vehicle but could not conceal one, told the METNEWs in 2012 that after winning the case, he never went back to apply for the permit.
But Justice Madeleine Flier, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said Salute is distinguishable.
“Whereas the policy in Salute prevented any review of an application, the Policy here simply identifies the decision maker for residents of cities who do not use the Department,” the justice said. “In contrast to the policy in Salute, the Policy here not only requires review but permits review by both a police chief and the Sheriff. Salute therefore does not prevent the Policy.”
Attorneys on appeal were Bradley A. Benbrook and Stephen M. Duvernay of Benbrook Law Group, PC, for the plaintiffs and Assistant County Counsel Jennifer A.D. Lehman and Deputy Attorneys General Edward L. Hsu and Alexandra Zuiderweg,
The case is Vargas v. County of Los Angeles, B257371.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company