CGF and Carry in California: Sunshine Initiative Update (Part 2)

While we work to resolve the national question of the scope of the right to bear arms in public, the Initiative’s Compliance component would further go to address as much as possible in the 58 sheriffs’ carry license programs (from pre-application to issuance) so that, as soon as we did have a final decision from the Supremes (or a victory in the Ninth Circuit), people could apply en masse and would, it was hoped, not be stuck dealing with unlawful and burdensome local rules.
The Sunshine aspect of the Initiative had a two-part role: (1) it made the as-applied policies of all 58 sheriffs collectively exposed for the first time in history - telegraphing that Californians were very much interested in their rights, and (2) offering valuable insight to applicants and prospective applicants on “good cause” statements.
Since the Initiative took off in 2010, it has directly and positively affected carry throughout California in a number of ways. CGF v. Ventura County and Sheriff Bob Brooks was a lawsuit we filed - and won - when Sheriff Brooks refused to allow us access to public carry license records that we needed to show his actual practices, i.e., who was he giving carry licenses to and what “good causes” were acceptable? Through that lawsuit, we acquired and published the county’s records and sent a message to the other counties: show us, or we’ll have a judge make you show us.
Following that, CGF worked with newly-elected Ventura Sheriff Geoff Dean to install a completely-revamped policy largely based on CGF’s Model Carry License policy - the first and, to this day, only policy that both carefully adheres to state law and respects Constitutional doctrines on civil rights.
We also worked with San Mateo County to bring their policies and procedures into general compliance, while, like Ventura, they too retained discretion with respect to ‘good cause’ and ‘good moral character’ standards.
After investigating then-San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey’s carry license program (or, rather, his total lack of one, save for the single license he issued to his own lawyer), CGF not only exposed the corruption of the system but forced San Francisco to adopt a carry license policy for the first time in its history. The policy, while terrible, is at least something that we and others can challenge as various cases resolve and precedence builds.
In Stanislaus County, we successfully compelled (with an assist from the Madison Society) the sheriff’s office to stop enforcing an unconstitutional policy and to revisit many of their local rules, a number of which were clearly violative of state law.
In Merced County, we litigated a number of Sheriff Pazin’s carry license policies and practices, forcing the County to adopt a much more compliant policy - more news on this will be published very soon.
In Shasta County, CGF worked with Sheriff Bosenko to update his office’s policies following the enactment of SB 610. These revised policies and procedures are in the Sheriff’s hands and, last we heard, were waiting on final approval before being officially put into place.
In Los Angeles County, we’re litigating against Sheriff Baca over his policy of making applicants first apply to their police chief - costing applicants additional money and time - before being allowed to apply to his office. We think such a rule is not only unconstitutional but against his statutory duties, so we want to make sure that Los Angeles, and any other county that might be looking to Los Angeles as a beacon, is taught a lesson and brought back into compliance with the law. We’re also preparing a related new effort in Los Angeles county that has to do with rights under the California state constitution.
CGF is presently working with a diverse selection of counties to improve their policies in advance of a second amendment “bear” decision, compiling the 2012 statewide audit based on CA DOJ data, and preparing its next wave of lawsuits, including a unique challenge to reduce the waiting times for new applicants (in some counties this can exceed 12 months before applicants can even apply).
Since our Initiative commenced, we’ve assisted countless applicants in counties across the state; some have been outright successful and are carrying today, and some have become plaintiffs (or plaintiffs in waiting). Importantly, helpful information like the Carry License Application Guide - the only one of its kind in California - has made it into the hands of thousands of Californians. Similarly, CGF has sent all 58 sheriffs updates on carry license laws and copies of our Model Policy.
We expect to continue our existing progress and expect to accelerate the changes we’re creating once the Supreme Court grants cert in a carry case and then beyond an opinion recognizing that the law abiding have a right to bear arms in public.