Posted: 11/19/2008 10:23:18 AM EDT
For all the naysayers, and even those who are generally supportive of the NRA and/or are members but don't know what to do, here's a very good example of the NRA doing what it can do:
Supervisors criticize sheriff for tightening concealed weapons permits
More than 100 protesters show up at county board meeting to show anger over reversal of Carona gun policy
County supervisors, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and hundreds of gun activists engaged Tuesday in a Wild West-style shootout over restrictive concealed gun policies Hutchens has introduced during her first six months in office.
After hearing more than 80 speakers present compelling stories of threats and safety concerns, supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Hutchens to ease her review of concealed weapons permits and broaden the reasons why a member of the public could carry a concealed handgun.
Hutchens – who sat through the entire eight-hour hearing – was gracious about the debate afterward saying, “I was happy to hear what the issues are,” and called the session a “respectful debate.”
It might have been respectful. But it was also forceful.
“You’re being extremely restrictive,” said County Supervisors Pat Bates.
Hutchens replied, “I do not view my policy to be restrictive,” which triggered massive laughter from the audience.
The hearing was also precedent-setting. No one could remember an Orange County Sheriff sitting through such aggressive questioning by county supervisors - and with a smile.
County Supervisors’ Chairman John Moorlach also set an ironic precedent with his chief of staff joining the county counsel in a briefing that angered several supervisors. While Moorlach told the crowd that he was a proponent of concealed weapons, his staff member was arguing supervisors should not even pass a resolution telling the sheriff what to do.
In the end, that’s just what they did.
However, Hutchens noted that the resolution adopted by supervisors, “isn’t far from what I’m implementing.”
She also said she would consider how to handle the 423 revocation letters that she has issued after hearing concerns that a revocation would end up in people’s case files with the Department of Justice. “I may take a look at that,” she said after the hearing.
According to Hutchens, 1,069 concealed weapons permits have been reviewed and 646 have remained untouched. A total of 423 revocation letters have been sent out advising residents that they need to provide more proof of their need for carrying a concealed handgun. Hutchens also noted that since she took office, 64 applications have been received and 32 approved.
Hutchens – who was appointed by county supervisors in June after former Sheriff Mike Carona resigned in the wake of a federal indictment – began reviewing the concealed weapons permits issued by Carona after hearing of several irregularities in the process.
“When you come behind an indicted Sheriff, it’s prudent to look at everything,” she said.
Federal officials noted a questionable permit granted to a Carona contributor in their indictment and former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl has testified in Carona’s trial that concealed weapons permits and badges were handed out to contributors. Indeed, the Orange County Register did find 95 instances where Carona campaign donors – who gave more than $68,000 - received gun permits.
Under California state law, Sheriffs are granted wide discretion on setting policies that define the “good cause” needed to carry a concealed weapon. Carona was known in the gun community for his liberal interpretation of the standard. In fact, many rural counties do grant many more licenses than Sheriffs in urban areas.
But Hutchens argues that wide discretion is misleading. She sees the state law as very clear. Concealed weapons permits are an exception. And there are guidelines for granted the permits, even though it’s only a 1977 attorney general letter. But without any kind of regulatory body to enforce standards, Hutchens says all of California’s 58 Sheriff’s are on “the honor system.” And she believes in enforcing the spirit of the law, even when no one is looking.
“Just as I expect my deputies to follow the intent of the law, especially when no one is looking,” Hutchens told supervisors on Tuesday.
In October, Hutchens announced her new policy noting that specific proof of threats or workplace needs would be required, in addition to possible psychological and medical checks. Later that month, county supervisors questioned her and she made a misstep by saying none had yet to be revoked. She forgot to add that hundreds of residents were receiving letters advising them that their licenses would be revoked in 30 days without further good cause information.
The revisions triggered an avalanche of activist ire. And county supervisors got an earful. Soon, they were asking aggressive questions using information provided by activists.
“You have massive confusion in this state over good cause,” said Ed Worley, a California state liaison for the National Rifle Association. Worley said he was inundated by messages from Orange County members voicing concerns that concealed weapons permits were being denied. Other NRA officials at Tuesday’s meeting indicated they were monitoring the events and considering whether to become more involved in fundraising for local elections based on the decisions made.
Most of the speakers at the podium before supervisors told stories of being affected by crime, or having professions such as pilots that made them vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Richard Gilbert, 44, of Buena Park, told supervisors he wanted to apply for a permit because his disability – spina bifida – made it impossible for him to run away from an attacker. After reading stories of random violence, he asked how people could even show credible threats.
“Criminals don’t just attack some random class of people,” he said.
Jack Sobelman, 58, of Costa Mesa, told supervisors his concealed weapon permit had been revoked despite being “a political nobody.”
Sobelman said as a private pilot, he flew many dignitaries around and could be under threat from terrorists looking to hijack a small plane. He said a friend with similar cause had not had his license revoked.
“There’s no down side to having good, honest, competent people having a CCW,” Sobleman said.
However, Mary and Charles Blek – who lost their son to gun violence – made a point of showing up to the hearing so county supervisors would hear a different point of view on guns.
“The presence of a gun can escalate situations,” Blek said, adding that she and others who were not present approved of Hutchens policy.
“For example, do you want to be at a Ducks game, surrounded by tons of beer and people carrying concealed weapons,” asked Mary Blek.
She told supervisors that while she and her husband respected the views and passion of the audience, they are a small, vocal and organized minority in Orange County.
“Criminals don’t just attack some random class of people,” he said.Oh really.