Sheriff begins taking away concealed weapons permits
Hundreds of letters have been sent out advising current permit holders of impending revocation.

The Orange County Register | October 9, 2008
By Norberto Santana Jr.

The Sheriff's Department has begun the process of revoking hundreds of concealed weapon permits across Orange County.

This week, department officials confirmed that 146 letters have been sent out advising current license holders that their permits to carry firearms in public called CCWs are being revoked. There are currently 1,024 permit holders.

"The Department has determined that your identified risk does not meet the good cause threshold as required under the new CCW policy based upon the information you provided. As a result of this determination, the Department's present intention is to revoke your CCW license," reads the form letter sent out this month.

The letter, sent out under the signature of Captain Dave Nighswonger, advises current holders that if they feel that additional information should be considered they have roughly one month to provide additional good cause information for the department to consider before the revocation becomes final.

This week, county supervisors grilled Sheriff Sandra Hutchens during her 120-day update on the reorganization of the agency about the status of the concealed weapons review.

Hutchens acknowledged to supervisors that she had indeed tightened requirements for the permits but highlighted the fact that no current license had yet been revoked.

But it seems unlikely that those who are getting the letters won't be revoked.

"Most of them are not coming back with the information we need," said Nighswonger. "A lot of them are arguing the second amendment (to the U.S. Constitution)," he said.

Nighswonger said many of the current revocations listed their reason for having a concealed gun as "avid shooter."

That no longer qualifies under Hutchen's new standards.

Under state law, a Sheriff has discretion to issue concealed weapons permits. And under the administration of former Sheriff Mike Carona whose federal corruption trial starts on Oct. 28 guidelines for issuing concealed weapons permits were loosened.

Records reviewed by the Orange County Register show that concealed weapon permits soared under Carona, from 38 in 1998 to 468 the next year. By 2006, it was up to 1,400, a four-fold increase.

When Carona took over in 1998, Orange County ranked 34th in terms of the numbers of permits granted. By 2006, Orange County was ranked number nine.

However, the Register also found numerous instances where campaign donors received the permits. A Register analysis of Carona campaign contributions from 1996 to the end of 2001 shows that at least 95 contributors who gave at least $68,000 - got licenses.

Indeed, the federal indictment against Carona details one specific instance where a wealthy contributor was granted a license under questionable circumstances.

Hutchens has said that connection prompted her to review the policies and tighten the standards.

Her revisions, and the revocation letters, have enraged gun activists who are pressing county supervisors to take action.

"There's a lot of business owners and a lot of gun owners that have had CCWs that have never met Mike Carona or contributed," said Greg Block, a Huntington Beach-based firearms instructor and activist.

He and many activists suggest a different standard: "If you are not a convicted felon, you should be able to get able to get a CCW in California," Block said.