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Applications to carry concealed weapons pile up

The county is having trouble processing the backlog, now at almost 3,000, since a court ruling easing restrictions.

March 20, 2014|By Jill Cowan

A backlog of applications for concealed weapons permits in Orange County has grown to almost 3,000, officials said Thursday, as the Orange County Sheriff's Department scrambles to speed up the process.

The department is working out the logistics of a major staffing increase to help handle the flood, spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock said.

The increase started in the wake of a decision to roll back restrictions in response to a pro-gun ruling by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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The ruling would affect every county in the state, but Orange County was among the first to eliminate the requirement that residents who wanted to carry a concealed weapon must show they had a specific, individualized need to do so.

Since that move in February, the department has seen nearly four times the number of applications it usually receives in an entire year.

"There's just no way this pace keeps up," Hallock said.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens also opted to eliminate an in-person gun inspection component of the application to further streamline processing, he said.

All the while, the department continues to navigate a kind of legal limbo. State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris has said she plans to appeal the ruling, in the absence of an appeal by San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, who was the named defendant in the original case.

"We're still in that kind of leeway area where the courts can still withdraw the decision," Hallock said. "Following that, we may continue down the same course or we may have to divert and go in another direction."

Hutchens has said she intends to "follow the law."

"That is what I did prior to the law change and that is what I'm doing today," she told the Orange County Board of Supervisors earlier this month.

While supervisors voted to support the hiring of about 15 retired deputies on a temporary basis to help handle the onslaught, Hallock said that may not ultimately be the best course of action.

"We're not prepared to commit 15 full-time personnel," he said.

He said officials are in the process of identifying potential part-time staff, possibly from the department's professional standards division.

Hallock added that the delay in processing is in no way a "stall tactic," despite claims to the contrary.

Still, Orange County applicants say they're growing impatient, waiting to see if their interview and background check appointments — which now are set for as late as mid-2016 — will be adjusted.

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