January 13th, 2009, 5:57 pm · 75 Comments · posted by NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
Since Orange County’s new Sheriff Sandra Hutchens unveiled a more restrictive concealed weapons policy following her appointment by county supervisors this summer, she has explained it again, and again, and again.
Yet every time Hutchens goes before the board of supervisors, the policy change comes under more fire and yields more questions.
Tuesday was no different, except for the armed guards.
Responding to concerns about an unspecified protest involving unloaded guns, sheriff’s officials were out in force at the weekly meeting of the board of supervisors. Large placards advised those entering that they had to consent to searches and that firearms were not allowed in the meeting.
Hutchens left the meeting surrounded by nearly two dozen uniformed and plain clothes officers.
Hutchens has been walking a political minefield on the issue since she moved to change a decade-old concealed gun permit policy created by former Sheriff Mike Carona, who resigned earlier last year in the wake of a federal indictment. Jurors are expected to decide Carona’s fate as early as this week.
Hutchens said she moved to revise the policies because the indictment against Carona mentioned specific instances of gun permits being exchanged for campaign contributions. Similar accusations also surrounded the badges given out to reserve deputies, which Hutchens also scrapped.
Hutchens tightening of the gun policies has run afoul of gun activists and the National Rifle Association, which have vowed to oppose her re-election as well as those of any county supervisor responsible for supporting her. That kind of backlash has caused supervisors to become very vocal in their statements against her gun policies.
“I’ve encouraged her to be more flexible,” said Supervisor John Moorlach from the dais as he noted his private discussions with Hutchens.
That is a stark difference in approach, publicly, than was first perceived by gun activists from Moorlach’s office. In fact, his chief of staff, Mario Mainero first argued that county supervisors shouldn’t give Hutchens any public direction because that would be “unconstitutional, illegal and void.”
While Hutchens has listened to supervisors, she has politely said they will have to agree to disagree. She said her view of state law doesn’t allow the latitude normally associated with CCW policies.
During her long anticipated update, Hutchens told county supervisors that she had tweaked her policy to take into account their concerns and expanded slightly the good cause standard for issuing concealed gun permits.
She also told supervisors that she had found a way to remove permits that don’t meet her standards without damaging the reputations of gun owners. Her new approach is to simply allow gun owners to have their concealed gun permits expire early, as opposed to being revoked.
Hutchens said she has added two more causes that can qualify a resident for a concealed gun permit. Showing documented instances of threats to personal safety, and threats to a person’s safety by the nature of their “profession, business or status.”
Gun activists took issue with Hutchens revisions immediately arguing that the expiration route, instead of revocation, doesn’t comply with state law. Supervisors asked Hutchens about the legality of the revision and instructed county counsel to research the issue and come back with an update.
To another CCW meeting, on Jan. 27.
While supervisors thanked Hutchens for listening to their concerns, many are still frustated by the surprise issue of their appointed Sheriff.
“It is still problematic,” said Supervisor Pat Bates, ”and we’ll continue to deal with it.”