Editorials

Scott Jones makes good on gun permits pledge, for better or worse

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, center, who is running for Congress, has overseen a twentyfold increase in concealed weapons permits during his tenure in Sacramento County’s top law enforcement job.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, center, who is running for Congress, has overseen a twentyfold increase in concealed weapons permits during his tenure in Sacramento County’s top law enforcement job. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Give credit to Sheriff Scott Jones for making good on a campaign pledge. He promised to grant a permit to carry a concealed handgun to any law-abiding citizen who asked, and that’s exactly what he has done.

Jones has issued nearly 8,000 concealed carry permits since taking office in 2011, a more than twentyfold increase from the roughly 350 permits when he took office, The Sacramento Bee’s Hudson Sangree and Phillip Reese reported recently.

But while Jones has done what he pledged, others are falling down. Although Jones is an independently elected official, Sacramento County supervisors ought to be curious enough to raise basic questions as part of the oversight that ought to come with developing an annual budget. Instead, they seem largely unaware of the policy or its implications.

The California Legislature has passed many gun restrictions. But after ceding authority to sheriffs to issue permits for “good cause,” lawmakers have paid little attention to the policy and public safety implications of having 58 sheriffs in 58 counties establish their own policies for issuing concealed weapons permits.

Why should El Dorado County, with 180,000 residents, have 2,500 permits, and Los Angeles County, with 7.4 million adults, have 500 residents licensed to carry handguns? Or San Francisco have only four?

The issue clearly has statewide implications. A person who receives a permit in Sacramento or El Dorado county can legally carry a gun to San Francisco or any other county, no matter the policies of the jurisdiction being visited.

Permits are good for two years. Is that the right period? Should an individual have to prove there’s a basis for his or her claim of a need to carry a concealed firearm? Permit holders must undergo training. But is that training consistent statewide? For answers, legislators would need to ask sheriffs in 58 counties.

Attorney General Kamala Harris has taken the right step by intervening in a case pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that seeks to define local officials’ authority to issue concealed carry permits.

We remain unconvinced that Jones’ policy is wise. Research has shown that a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide threefold. The Washington Post reported that in the U.S. since Jan. 1, there have been at least 23 instances in which toddlers somehow got hold of someone’s gun and fired, with tragic results.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that individuals can possess firearms – and that states can impose reasonable regulations. If legislators don’t take time to ask the right questions, or for that matter, any questions, how do we know what’s needed and what’s reasonable?

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