Former L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was notoriously stingy when it came to issuing concealed weapons permits. In a county of 10 million people, only about 340 people have one. (Many of them happen to be Baca's friends.)

But that policy may change, depending on who is elected the next sheriff. At a debate last night in Van Nuys, the candidates took different positions on the issue.

Paul Tanaka, the former undersheriff, said he would open up the process…
“I support the Second Amendment,” Tanaka said. “Being able to possess a weapon, by way of a CCW, is a right, not a privilege.”

The issue is newly relevant in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down San Diego County's policy on issuing permits. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal found that San Diego's requirement that applicants show “good cause” infringes on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. Tanaka said he supports that ruling.

In contrast, Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold and retired Commander Bob Olmsted said they were opposed to expanding access to concealed weapons.

“I do not want more firearms in the street,” Hellmold said. “It impacts our young kids in inner city areas that are struck by gunfire.”

Olmsted argued that L.A. County was giving out weapons “much too freely,” and said he wanted to avoid cases of vigilantism.

“I don't want to have another Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin,” Olmsted said, which provoking booing from some gun-rights supporters in the crowd.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and the state police chiefs' association are opposed to the Ninth Circuit's ruling. All have filed motions seeking a rehearing of the case.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, who has a lot of big-name endorsements and is considered by many the frontrunner in the race, took a cautious approach to the issue. McDonnell argued against immediately issuing more permits in response to the Ninth Circuit's ruling, saying that could expose the county to litigation if the decision were reversed.

“The prudent thing to do… is to wait and see what happens in the Supreme Court as they look at it and then judge each case on a case-by-case basis,” McDonnell said.

Two other candidates, Pat Gomez and Lou Vince, said they supported expanding access to concealed weapons.

“Right now the only people who have guns are the crooks, and that's just not fair,” Vince said.

Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers was unable to attend the debate. But at an earlier debate hosted by the deputies' union, Rogers said that he “challenged the sheriff when he asked me to give CCWs to people who didn't deserve them. I did not do that.”

LA Weekly