How to Get a Concealed Weapons Permit in L.A. County

October 20, 2010

By Tammy Wu

If you want to get a concealed carry weapons permit in Los Angeles County, otherwise known as a CCW, you’d better be in grave personal danger and have a spotless record, or otherwise be prepared for rejection.

Danny, a member of Los Angeles Rifle Club said he’s known many people who have tried to get one and were unsuccessful. While only a Handgun Safety Certificate, HSC is needed in order to legally own or possess a handgun, a CCW is required to legally to carry a loaded gun in public. An HSC generally costs $25, and requires passing a 20 question multiple-choice test. A CCW is much more costly and complicated to obtain.

There are four conditions an applicant must prove in order to get a CCW. 1. Be of good moral character. 2. Have good cause. 3. Meet residency requirements. 4. Complete a course of training.

Good moral character is evaluated on several levels. The first step is a thorough background check and fingerprinting. Many counties require character reference letters. These are statements written by friends or family acknowledging that they are aware of and have no concerns regarding the applicant’s application for a CCW.

The applicant must not belong to certain prohibited classes that are listed in the second half of the application. The lists are exhaustive and reviewed every year. They include categories such as: any sort of criminal record involving controlled substances and narcotics, firearms, or alcohol, domestic abuse, declared mental instability, past insubordination to law enforcement. The application also asks for any moving traffic violations. In few instances, psychological testing is required. LA County does not require psychological testing.

What qualifies as good cause? The application specifies good cause is a threat to the livelihood of the applicant or the applicant’s family that cannot be remedied with law enforcement or alternative measures. Lieutenant Crocker from the Malibu/Lost Hills police branch stipulated that the need for self defense should be specific and personal, “You have to have a good reason for self defense. Someone has to be specifically targeting you. It can’t be because you just live in a dangerous area, because you could always move. Another reason is that your business or job involves you carrying around a lot of money.”

California is a May issue state, meaning that if applicants meet all the designated criteria on paper, it is still at the sheriff’s discretion to grant/refuse applications. In a Shall-Issue state, the sheriff makes no discretion when granting permits. Typically, an authority will grant a CCW as long as legal criteria are met. California CCW laws vary greatly from county to county, in some counties, such as LA, CCWs are very difficult to get, while some other counties seems to be more relaxed regards permits.

While LA County is known as a difficult county to obtain a CCW, statistics taken from the Bureau of Firearms show that the number of CCW permits granted have been growing each year. The number of CCWs granted for some cities stay more or less the same each year or even decrease. Francisco has consistently granted 5-10 permits each year, and Sonoma County went from issuing 400 to 100 permits over the last two decades. In 1987, 366 permits were granted in LA County. Numbers grew to 1626 in 2004, but have tapered back down to an average of 1200 permits each year over the last 5 years.

Many states have elected to move from May-Issue to Shall-Issue states. Currently, there are 9 May-Issue states and 38-shall issue states. There are 3 unrestricted states where permits are not necessary to carry a weapon and 2 no issue states where under no circumstances may an individual carry a handgun.

If the applicant lives in a city with its own police department, he or she must research whether to apply to the County Sheriff Department or the local police branch. A city may delegate all its CCW granting rights to the county sheriff, while in other instances, the Sheriff may require that the applicant apply to his or her local police department first. In some areas, one department may be more lax in granting permits than the other. Total costs including initial application fee, processing fee including background check and fingerprinting, possible psyche testing, training school range anywhere from $200-$500. Additionally, renewal fees range from $10-$100.

The applicant will be notified 90 days from date of initial application or 30 days after the background check done. If denied at the branch office, the applicant may file an appeal with the sheriff’s department within 60 days of the application being denied. The basic permit for non-officials lasts 2 years.