For the moment, California is one of the few states left with meaningful limits on concealed weapons permits. Here, we think we should be judicious when it comes to legally carrying lethal weapons on the streets and in cars.
But California’s reasonable rules have become a fat target for pro-gun groups and politicians. Last year, at the behest of gun rights advocates, a federal court questioned the constitutionality of the state’s system, which requires that gun owners say why they need to carry a hidden gun before a sheriff or police chief can issue them a permit.
Now, with that case on appeal, Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, wants to chip away at another perfectly sensible restriction. Gray’s Assembly Bill 1154 would hide much of the information on file about who gets the permits, making it harder to find out whether officials are appropriately dispensing permission to carry.
On Tuesday, when AB 1154 comes before the Assembly Judiciary Committee, lawmakers should give it a big thumbs down.
Gray, a favorite of gun rights groups, argues that the current system puts gun owners at risk because names and contact information for most permit holders are subject to disclosure under the state Public Records Act. He wants to remove all addresses and phone numbers from the public record, as is done now for prosecutors, judges and other public officials.
Citing a New York newspaper that, after the Sandy Hook school massacre, published a map of local gun permits, Gray and gun rights advocates claim that criminals could find people with guns, break into their homes and steal their firearms.
Please. Last time we checked, burglars didn’t need to submit public records requests just to acquire a weapon. (In fact, from the stunning profusion of dots on that map, it appears a burglar in suburban New York would have been hard-pressed to find a house that wasn’t equipped with a firearm.)
It is, however, important that the public retain access to information about concealed weapons permits. California gives sheriffs and police chiefs broad discretion over who gets them, and it matters how and to whom permits are issued.
In Orange and Los Angeles counties, elected sheriffs have been accused over the years of favoring campaign donors who in many cases had no demonstrable need to carry a concealed weapon. Elsewhere, permits have been issued to connected applicants who don’t even live in that jurisdiction.
The public needs to know if those in power abuse these permits, both for safety and oversight.
Last year, after that federal court ruling raised the possibility that California’s concealed-carry rules might be thrown out, thousands of gun owners rushed to apply.
Whether our restrictions will be made less judicious is an open question. But if the father of your kid’s friend was driving around with a gun, or your sheriff had handed out concealed weapons permits like candy, wouldn’t you want to know it? Gray’s bill is bad public policy.