KNOW THE LAW: Find the State of California answers to important questions about owning a concealed weapon
SACRAMENTO, CA - With budget cuts depleting local police and sheriffs departments, concealed weapons permit applications have bumped up slightly.
"We are seeing an increase in students asking for concealed weapons classes," said Terry Wingert, firearms instructor with Advanced Security Institute in Rancho Cordova. "It hasn't been a huge increase, but the concern over personal safety is driving a bump in business."
Success in acquiring a concealed weapons permit in California varies greatly from county to county. California is a "may issue" state, which gives sheriffs in each county much more discretion over who is approved for a permit.
In the U.S., 37 other states are "shall issue" states, which directs law enforcement to approve permits unless they can provide a good reason to withhold a CCW.
In general, rural California counties tend to approve more permits, such as Butte's 1,700; while urban counties are more reluctant to issue permits, like the six allowed in San Francisco.
The application process in California can take several months and often requires an interview and background check.
The training happens over two days and covers the legal implications of protecting yourself with deadly force as well as a test of your gun handling skills.
Statistics on the effectiveness of a concealed carry permit are tough to come by. Most of the studies are done by partisan groups or include anecdotal reports of success or failure of concealed weapons permit holders.
"We want people to be educated, informed carriers so we don't have issues out there with concealed weapons permit holders," said Wingert. "Not all people who come for classes end up going for their CCW because they find out all the responsibility it requires to carry a firearm and they're not sure they want to take that on."
In that case, Wingert said he often counsels students who want protection to consider a Taser or pepper spray.
A permit and a weapon cannot guarantee safety. Former federal prosecutor and attorney Bill Portanova cautions those who seek CCWs to understand that a gun may not be a deterrent to some criminals.
"Police will tell you that real bad guys aren't really intimidated by guns . . . or badges," Portanova said. "It's a hard lesson. Just having a gun doesn't provide a magic change in dynamics that you wished it would. Sometimes they are crazy, sometimes they are jacked up on meth or PCP. They are not thinking clearly. Other times they're full of bravado and they'll try to slap that gun out of your hand because they see fear in your eyes."
Wingert agreed. "A criminal who doubts your willingness to use a gun might be more intimidated by a Taser because they believe you're more likely to use it," he said.