In 2018, you can have a say in the nation’s gridlocked gun debate. Don’t waste it

Roses on chairs with the names of those killed during a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
Roses on chairs with the names of those killed during a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. NYT

When he ran for Sacramento County sheriff, Scott Jones made clear to voters that he would liberally issue permits to carry concealed weapons. He has certainly kept that promise since taking office in 2011, as the State Bureau of Audits found.

Whether we are safer because of Jones’ policy is another question.

The audit by Auditor Elaine Howle’s office this month detailed inconsistencies in how California counties go about issuing permits to carry concealed firearms. It showed, as The Sacramento Bee has reported, that Jones is far freer with concealed carry permits than his counterparts are in some counties. As of June 30, there were 9,130 active concealed carry permits in Sacramento County, compared with 1,281 in San Diego and 197 in Los Angeles counties.

In several instances, the audit found, officials handing out permits failed to follow their own policies. Such differences and inconsistencies illustrate the need for statewide standards. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, the Sacramento Democrat who requested the audit, has promised to pursue legislation. We encourage that.

But the audit gets to a broader point: California is not like other states on the question of guns, as legislators and voters have made clear. More specifically, this is a “may-issue” state. In other words, law enforcement in California has discretion about whether to issue permits for concealed weapons.

States in much of the rest of the nation have a “shall-issue” standard. As the name implies, police in states where the gun lobby is strong must issue concealed weapons permits to anyone who seems to be law-abiding. That may be fine for Arizona or Utah, but not California.

In 2017, more than 30,000 Americans have died from gunshots, and tens of thousands more have been wounded. A new level of madness took hold when Stephen Paddock busted out a window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, and slaughtered 58 people at a country music concert below.

Then came the massacre of 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, by a man who bought his weapons despite a law that should’ve prohibited him from owning a gun. And there was the shooting deaths of five people in Tehama County by a man who also illegally possessed his firearms.

And yet Congress adjourned without approving any significant gun-related legislation, not a ban on the device that Paddock used to make his semi-automatic rifles fire like fully automatic weapons of death, nor laws to tighten background checks for prospective gun buyers.

However, the Republican-controlled House did approve the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, a bill that would make California and other states that have sensible gun laws to honor concealed carry permits from states with loose laws.

All 14 House Republicans from California voted for this nutty bill, rebuking the notion that states have the right to govern their own affairs, so long as they follow the Constitution. We hope the bill dies in the Senate, although it remains a priority of the National Rifle Association, which spent $50 million-plus on campaigns in 2016 and will spend again in 2018.

In 2018, voters will have their say. All 435 congressional seats are up for grabs, including 39 held by Democrats and 14 by Republicans in California. How members of Congress voted on the reciprocity bill ought to factor into those decisions.

Similarly, Sacramento County voters will elect a new sheriff, as Jones steps down. Candidates’ standards for issuing concealed weapons permits ought to be a significant factor in that decision.