Concealed Carry Weapon Applications Spike in the County

2 mins read

A June 2022 Supreme Court Case led San Mateo County to revise its requirements for residents to obtain concealed carry weapon (CCW) permits. As a result, since last summer, “The number of applications for CCW permits has increased. CCW classes were happening far more frequently, and with a lot more students in them,” said Luis Ayala, a Deputy Sheriff with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. 

The Supreme Court case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen rejected a New York law requiring people applying for a CCW permit to demonstrate a special need, or “proper cause,” to carry a concealed weapon. California had a similar requirement for CCW applicants, asking applicants to show a “good cause” for needing a CCW.

A day after the decision, the Office of California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta wrote, “It is the Attorney General’s view that the Court’s decision renders California’s ‘good cause’ standard to secure a permit to carry a concealed weapon in most public places unconstitutional. Permitting agencies may no longer require a demonstration of ‘good cause’ in order to obtain a concealed carry permit.”

“In the past,” Ayala explained, “‘Good cause’ could be someone who transports large sums of money or large amounts of merchandise.” Other examples of “good cause” included working in high-risk occupations or self-defense concerns due to direct threats to safety.

A number of studies have concluded that weakening requirements to carry concealed weapons leads to an increase in violence, and that increased gun carrying can cause nonviolent disputes to escalate more often. One study following 34 states that relaxed their CCW restrictions over four decades found that these policy changes led to, on average, a 9.5% increase in assaults with firearms. Another found that more permissive CCW laws lead to an 11% increase in firearm homicide rates. 

Given the changing CCW policies around California, some worry that the Bruen decision will lead to an increase in gun violence in the state. Across the state, over 5 million adults have a firearm in their home, which they now may be able to carry in public more easily. At M-A, with two students bringing firearms to campus last semester, gun safety remains a relevant issue.

Ayala said, “Previously, before the Supreme Court ruling, applicants were required to submit a separate document for reasons as to why they would need a CCW. As it stands now, San Mateo County does not require a separate document for justification, or good cause.” 

To get a CCW permit in San Mateo County, an applicant still must demonstrate “good moral character,” “[meet] residence requirements,” and complete an eight-hour training, as outlined on the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office website.

While the Bruen decision significantly reduced requirements to get a CCW in San Mateo County, not all California counties were similarly affected. CCW permits are issued either by county sheriffs or city police chiefs, who previously had broad discretion to decide what qualified as “good cause.” In some counties with Republican sheriffs, such as Sacramento and Tehama, licenses were already issued to all eligible applicants as long as they completed the required training, didn’t have a criminal record, and paid the necessary fees. In practice, the Bruen decision didn’t change these counties’ policies.

Ayala said, “Every agency set their own standards for ‘good cause.’ For some agencies in California, that hasn’t changed at all, because simply saying that it was your constitutional right to a CCW was enough [of a ‘good cause’].” In contrast, before the Supreme Court ruling, “Here in San Mateo County, they’d ask you to provide further details or reasons why you think you do need a CCW.”

Like San Mateo, some other counties have also seen a spike in CCW applications since the Bruen decision. In San Francisco, for example, the sheriff’s office received more CCW applications within two weeks of the decision than they had previously received throughout the entire decade. 

On local changing policies, Ayala said, “San Mateo County does its best to follow all local, state and federal guidelines. We can only work within the parameters that are set for us.”

Katie Doran is a senior and an Editor-in-Chief of the M-A Chronicle. In journalism, Katie has enjoyed being able to direct their own research on issues and events related to the M-A community. She is also involved in M-A's debate team and is interested in law, politics, and social issues. In their free time, Katie likes to read, bake, paint, and hang out with friends.

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