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Groups, Sheriff Disagree on Gun Permits Policy

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
Issue 26, Volume 18.
Paul J. Young
Special to the Valley News
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RIVERSIDE - The head of several pro-gun organizations today threatened legal action against Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff over an alleged policy of arbitrarily withholding concealed weapons permits, which the sheriff denied, pointing to evidence that he's always been a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights.

Brandon Combs, who runs the Calguns Foundation and the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, announced the "Fix-Riverside Initiative," aimed at spurring Sniff to loosen up the issuance of concealed gun licenses in the wake of a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in February.

The 2-1 ruling found that "self-defense" was a sufficient reason for a sheriff or police chief to issue a concealed firearm permit to a law-abiding citizen.

"Sheriff Sniff appears to have violated the civil rights of his constituents the entire time he's been in office," Combs said. "It's long past time that he learned how to read and follow the Constitution."

Combs, joined by sheriff's Lt. Chad Bianco, who opposed Sniff in the June 3 election, accused the sheriff of ignoring the federal court ruling in Peruta v. County of San Diego, in which the majority sided with the plaintiffs in their challenge to the county's "good cause" standard.

The standard is operative not only in San Diego County, but throughout the state, where residents can apply for concealed gun permits, but are not entitled to them. Applicants must be vetted and undergo firearms certification training.

The Ninth Circuit decision stated that the "good cause" standard abridged "constitutionally protected conduct" and was too arbitrary based on the Second Amendment principle that the "right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

The judges also cited recent U.S. Supreme Court findings in support of their decision, which has been stayed until a challenge to the ruling by California Attorney General Kamala Harris is resolved.

Temecula attorney Jason Davis, representing the Calguns Foundation, said Sniff's "policy and practices ... appear to be the same" as those invalidated by the federal court.

Davis and Combs suggested Sniff was picking and choosing which applicants should receive a gun permit, without regard to fairness or constitutional guarantees.

However, Sniff told City News Service that he is following the law and doing his best to accommodate constituents.

"We approve 98 percent of concealed-carry permits. That's a pretty impressive approval rate," Sniff said. "Not every single person who submits an application is going to be issued a permit, but it is still our responsibility to vet people very carefully."

Around 1,100 residents countywide -- not including law enforcement -- are currently licensed to carry firearms, according to the sheriff.

"The Ninth Circuit decision is not the law at this point because it's under appeal," Sniff said. "For now, leaving the issuance of concealed-carry permits to the discretion of local police chiefs and sheriffs is the law in California."

Sniff said he could relate to the frustration of Second Amendment advocates who want California to be a "shall-issue" state, as opposed to a "may-issue" state, where self-defense is not accepted as the sole criterion for approving a permit.

"California is a very anti-gun state," Sniff said. "I'm not sure the idea of 'shall-issue' is ever going to wash here."

Thirty-nine states have "shall-issue" laws, allowing any citizen who passes a criminal background check and a brief firearms training course to obtain a concealed-carry permit.

According to Combs, the Fix-Riverside Initiative will concentrate on building a coalition with the goal of pressuring Sniff to relax the vetting process in the interest of issuing more permits to law-abiding residents. However, if changes aren't made to the groups' satisfaction, a lawsuit will be the next step.

"As infuriating as it is, we're probably going to have to take the sheriff to court (because of) ... a woefully low issuance rate," Combs said.

Sniff said he'll continue to adhere to the law, regardless of pressure tactics. The sheriff said any notion that he's "anti-gun" conflicts with reality, noting a recent "A+" rating from the California Rifle & Pistol Association and a history of challenging onerous gun restrictions, including confiscatory measures proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California.

More information on Fix-Riverside can be found at .

The sheriff's gun policies are here:



Comment Profile Imagekurt
Comment #1 | Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm
I agree!...and now it is going to get even worse!
Comment Profile ImageRod
Comment #2 | Wednesday, Jun 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm
I live in Riverside County and have watched several Sheriff's over the years. I am an FFL which adds to my perspective related to CCW.
Having watched Sheriff Sniff since his appointment and election I must say I think he is doing a good job and is very pro gun and a oath keeper.
I would like to see the pro gun folks, which I support, leave Sheriff Sniff alone. At least until the court comes to a final verdict on this issue.
Thank You.
Comment Profile ImageSniff support
Comment #3 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 6:57 am
It is obvious from not posting comments that your paper has an agenda. There are articles that are suspect as you continue to support certain people and liberal agendas. That's for you, Paul Young. Your paper cannot be counted on to voice any other side than the one you support.
Comment Profile ImageS T
Comment #4 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 9:05 am
"California is a very anti-gun state," Sniff said. "I'm not sure the idea of 'shall-issue' is ever going to wash here."

Well last I checked Sheriff, you are bound to the decision of the Courts not your own whimsical opinions.
Comment Continued : The comment above was written from the same location.
Post Continued
Comment Profile ImageSean T
Comment #5 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 9:07 am
"California is a very anti-gun state," Sniff said. "I'm not sure the idea of 'shall-issue' is ever going to wash here."

Well there Sheriff last I checked you are bound by the decisions of the Court and not your own whimsical opinions.
Comment Profile ImageJ W
Comment #6 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 9:42 am
Something sounds fishy about the sherriffs claimed 98% issuance rate. I don't think CALGUNS would be persuing this if the county number was really that high. Does anybody have real numbers on permits submitted, accepted, and approved?
Comment Profile ImageBrandon Combs
Comment #7 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm
JW, for actual numbers and analysis, see the links at

It's clear that the Sheriff will continue to insist on ignoring reality in order to maintain his unlawful and unconstitutional policies and practices.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that San Diego County Sheriff William Gore’s policy of denying issuance of licenses to carry law-abiding residents of San Diego unless the applicant’s “good cause” includes some acceptable “heightened need” is unconstitutional:

“Our conclusion that the right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense is perhaps unsurprising — other circuits faced with this question have expressly held, or at the very least have assumed, that this is so.” Peruta v. County of San Diego, 742 F.3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2014) at 1166. “…San Diego County's good cause permitting requirement impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense.” Id. at 1179. (Internal quotations omitted.)

From a very recent federal court order on the applicability of Peruta:

“Plaintiff asserts that the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Peruta v. County of San Diego, 742 F.3d 1144 (9th Cir. 2014), has been “stayed” and is neither binding on this Court nor relevant to his claims. (Obj. at 8). Plaintiff is mistaken.” Nichols v. Harris, C.D. CA no. 2:11-cv-09916-SJO-SS, Order Accepting Findings, Conclusions And Recommendations Of United States Magistrate Judge (May 1, 2014), Docket no. 166.

-Brandon Combs
Comment Profile ImageBHirsh
Comment #8 | Thursday, Jun 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Is this a case of nothing being enough, or of a sheriff who unfairly restricts licensure?

Can the sheriff prove his 98% claim?

If he can, then apparently some folks can never be satisfied.
Comment Profile ImageKeith
Comment #9 | Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 2:19 am
I doubt the 98% figure, but wouldn't be too surprised if it were found to be accurate. The types of people who would seek a CCW permit are the types to do their due diligence. The Riverside Sheriff's website clearly states they will not issue permits for self defense and goes on to state you need to have a tangible threat against your life complete with a restraining order. Law abiding citizens tend not to associate with the types of people from whom death threats might come; therefore, it's no surprise few even bother to seek a permit.
Comment Profile ImageCounty Resident
Comment #10 | Sunday, Jun 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm
The Sheriff's website still shows the requirement of "good cause" before issuance: "Convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life, or of great bodily harm to the applicant, his/her spouse, or dependent child, which cannot be adequately dealt with by existing law enforcement resources, and which danger cannot be reasonably avoided by alternative measures, and which danger would be significantly mitigated by the applicant's carrying of a concealed firearm." Within the CCW application it also states: "The Riverside County Sheriff does not issue CCW licenses to "provide a feeling of safety" or to alleviate a "fear of victimization"." This is the violation of the 2nd Amendment that the 9th Circuit just struck down. Sniff can claim 98% all he wants, but 98% of what? His starting point is that he won't issue except under very rare circumstances. I'd wager his 98% is a measure of how many were issued AFTER he agreed with their statement of "good cause".
Comment Profile ImageShall-issue-not-Sheriff-May-I
Comment #11 | Monday, Jun 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm
Sniff may in fact have a 98% issuance rate to applicants, but that's only because his office does a "pre-interview" with potential applicants. If someone wants to apply for a CCW but doesn't meet Sniff's exacting standards as to who should be allowed to defend themselves (essentially people who have a court-proven threat against their lives) then the "potential applicant" is told that they do not qualify for a CCW and that they'd just be blowing several hundred dollars if they even bothered to apply.

Sniff can only claim a high rate of applicant success because he denies almost everyone BEFORE they can apply.
Comment Profile Imagebrian g
Comment #12 | Monday, Jun 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm
As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,189,641,[1] making it the fourth-most populous county in California and the 11th-most populous in the United States. If only 1100 gun permits were issued, this is a terrible percentage. sheriff needs to GO.

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