A Supreme Court ruling last summer changed two words, starting a chain reaction across the nation for who can obtain a concealed carry weapons permit. In Santa Clara County, it means more residents will be able to carry concealed weapons on the streets.
The June 23, 2022, ruling struck down previous regulations that gave the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and other local authorities the ability to deny gun permits if applicants didn’t have “good cause” to carry a firearm. With that language gone, the sheriff’s office has seen a flood of applications for concealed carry weapons permits, which allow individuals to carry firearms in public places.
Spokesperson Sgt. Michael Low said the sheriff’s office received 32 concealed carry weapons applications from Jan. 1 to May 31 last year. That number jumped dramatically from June through the end of 2022 after the court ruling, with 378 applications. In 2021, the office only received 32 applications the entire year. The department launched an online application portal in February and within a month received hundreds of requests.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Bob Jonsen said he anticipated the increase. Prior to the ruling, the county and California at large generally took a “may issue” approach to approving permits, he said. Now, the county is more in line with a “shall issue” approach, he said.
“It’s a natural progression for people to say, ‘Hey, why not?’ and throw in an application,” Jonsen told San Jose Spotlight. “It is what it is now, and that will make it a little more challenging to deny (permits) because that ‘good cause’ requirement is no longer in place.”
Jonsen said the county implemented alternatives to replace the previous “good cause” measure, including a required psychological exam through a psychologist used by the sheriff’s office and more gun training hours. He said current county policy also prohibits guns in places that primarily sell alcohol. Concealed weapons are also not allowed in schools, airports, courthouses and federal buildings. Applicants need to go through a criminal background check and interview with the sheriff’s office, according to the county sheriff’s website.
John Donohue, a Stanford Law School professor and gun policy expert, said a rise in gun ownership correlates with a rise in violent crime. A 2022 county report revealed public sector responses to gun violence cost the county $72 million annually.
“The evidence is now quite strong that when the state does allow more citizens to carry concealed handguns, the net effect is harmful,” Donohue told San Jose Spotlight.
Santa Clara County has not escaped such violence. San Jose received national attention after the May 2021 VTA mass shooting during which a disgruntled employee killed nine coworkers before turning the gun on himself. This followed on the heels of the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting that killed three and injured more than a dozen people attending the annual festivities.
Margaret Petros, executive director of Mothers Against Murder, said gun violence has been real for too long. Petros said she’s more concerned about tackling illegal gun use. San Jose approved a ban on ghost guns in 2022, which are homemade weapons without serial numbers, making them difficult to trace. San Jose is also the first city in the nation to require liability insurance for gun owners.
According to a San Jose Police Department spokesperson, San Jose also issues concealed carry weapons permits to city residents and currently has 136 applications pending as of this year. In the past, SJPD only received a handful of applications per year, the spokesperson said.
“There’s violence with guns. It didn’t happen overnight, it has increased over the past two, three decades,” Petros told San Jose Spotlight. “(But) I honestly never worry about someone who is carefully vetted, goes through background checks, goes through training to have a gun (and) is a law-abiding citizen.”
Jonsen said the county is working through a backlog of hundreds of applications.
“It’s a concerning time,” Jonsen said. “There will be more (concealed carry weapons permits) issued throughout Santa Clara County and hopefully these individuals will be extremely responsible.”
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