Last updated 10/25/2017 at Noon

Last updated 10/25/2017 at Noon

Hemet program will fast-track concealed handgun permits

A Hemet police program to fast-track the processing of concealed handgun permits began today under the direction of Chief Dave Brown, who said it was important to give residents a "fair and timely'' alternative to a Riverside County sheriff's program in which permits can take well over a year to process.

The Hemet Police Department's "Expedited Carry Concealed Weapon License Program'' will enable residents to apply for a CCW permit and be approved or denied within four months.

Agency spokesman Lt. Glen Brock said research had revealed that residents filing CCW applications with the sheriff's department were waiting between 18 and 22 months before they received a response as to the status of their request.

Sheriff's officials blamed the protracted delay on a "backlog of applications and staffing shortages,'' Brock said.

Under the Expedited Carry Concealed Weapon License Program, Hemet residents' applications will go through an outside vendor retained by the city, MyCCW.us, which will handle background checks and other requirements. MyCCW.us also services the cities of Banning, Beaumont and Murrieta.

"We want to ensure that Hemet residents have access to a fair and timely process to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon,'' Brown said. The retiring chief, who is challenging Sheriff Stan Sniff in next year's election, said residents can still opt to file their CCW applications with the sheriff's department.

Sniff has been criticized in the past, even threatened with lawsuits, for failing to accelerate the CCW application process. In 2014, he told City News Service that he generally approves "98 percent'' of CCW requests. There are more than 1,000 permit holders countywide.

California operates under the "may issue'' principal, which affords top law enforcement officials in cities and counties the discretion to authorize or deny concealed carry permits. Forty-one states have "shall issue'' or no-permit-required laws, giving residents with no serious criminal history the ability to carry guns, according to the National Rifle Association.

California Penal Code section 26150 specifies the minimum requirements to qualify for a CCW permit. Applicants are required to undergo background checks, receive firearms certification training and submit information showing "good cause'' to possess a concealed pistol before their request will be considered.

The good cause criterion became the subject of a federal civil rights case, Peruta v. County of San Diego, five years ago. The plaintiffs challenged the county's alleged arbitrary handling of permit applications, some of which were denied because they cited self-defense as the only reason for wishing to possess a concealed handgun.

The plaintiffs initially prevailed on Second Amendment grounds in a hearing before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, the full court in 2016 overturned the previous ruling in an appeal filed by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to review the matter, leaving the current good cause standard in place