By Alfredo Santana
LOS ANGELES — Bell Gardens and Huntington Park are the first cities in Southeast Los Angeles to authorize their police departments to process licenses to own concealed weapons without requiring good cause, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the case between New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
The new gun standards began to take shape a day after California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued new directives citing the ruling last June that makes unconstitutional requirements set in the California Penal Code sections 26150 and 26155 that asked applicants to show good cause to carry a firearm in self-defense.
“In response to the above mentioned Bruen decision, the Los Angeles County sheriff has now relinquished the responsibilities of issuing [concealed weapon] licenses back to the municipal police departments who protect and serve the many cities throughout Los Angeles County,” read a statement posted on the Bell Gardens website.
The ordinance was approved by the Bell Gardens City Council on a 4-0 vote before the swearing-in ceremony of Francis de Leon Sanchez Dec. 12.
The fee package contains administrative and processing fees for adult residents who meet local and state safety backgrounds and do not pose threats to the community, according to Bell Gardens Police Lt. Ruben Musquiz.
An initial fee of $398 will apply to anyone who qualifies for the concealed weapon license, in addition to $100 in administrative fees, $93 for the two-year permit, $25 for fingerprints, a $125 fee for a psychological review and $140 for a mandated safety and weapons course.
With the exception of the fingerprints and psychological fees, the document should be renewed every two years at a cost of $520.
Musquiz said that before the Bruen ruling, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued such permits for Bell Gardens and most cities within Los Angeles County, but due to an expected increase in applications, the burden was shifted to local police departments.
“Our proposal is to contract with an outside agency, an outside vendor who will collect the fees, process the applications, conduct the background investigations and then turn it over to the police department for final approval,” Musquiz said.
“No amount of these fees is in any way a profit to the city of Bell Gardens, or any of its departments and/or employees,” Bell Gardens Police Captain Paul Camacho said in a report prepared for the council.
Councilwoman Alejandra Cortez attempted to reduce the charges due to emailed messages from residents noticing that the Bell Gardens fees were higher compared to those of Los Angeles and other neighboring cities.
However, Bell Gardens Police Chief Scott Fairfield replied that the fees are in synch with what the state advised, and that any reduction would mean the city would operate with a financial loss.
“We are only allowed to charge a certain amount, and this is the amount we are allowed to charge for each of these categories,” Fairfield said. “Technically, we could lower them, but they would come out at a cost to the city. We would have to reimburse to the company doing the processing.”
This is the first time Bell Gardens is required to issue concealed weapons permits in four and a half years since Fairfield became chief of police, he said.
Bruce Crowe, a former Bell Gardens resident who now lives in Downey, said the police department should not be handling applications or levying fees for the concealed firearm permits, as they did not when he was born and raised in the city decades ago.
“This is an issue, because the city and state of New York tried to deny American citizens their Second Amendment right to own a firearm for their own protection. They tried to deny it at every single turn,” Crowe said. “But they went to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court ruled that it was indeed was a violation of the Second and 14th Amendment rights to your protection. The right to defend yourself.”
Similarly, the Huntington Park City Council approved on a 4-0 vote Dec. 20 a plan to let its police department process concealed weapons permits for adult residents, but with a slightly different fee scale.
Public records signed by Police Chief Cosme Lozano and approved by City Manager Ricardo Reyes indicate that to obtain a concealed firearm permit in Huntington Park, an applicant should pay $430.
The costs are itemized as follows: $93 for the initial application, $52 for renewal, a $100 processing fee plus $25 for renewal of processing fee, $10 for law amendments and $150 for a psychological exam.
Both policies align with that of the larger Los Angeles Police Department, agency that started processing such licenses almost two months ago, said a notice posted on its website Nov. 23.
Total fees to get a concealed weapon license from the LAPD are $268, and only apply to residents with addresses in the city of Los Angeles.
For their part, the Whittier and Downey Police Departments plan to implement their own fee schedules and policies to issue the permits when they finish drafting the ordinances and are ready for approval.
A statement posted on the city of Whittier’s website said the police department is “currently developing policies and procedures to accept, process, investigate and issue licenses to carry a concealed weapon” for its residents and those of Santa Fe Springs.
Meanwhile, Downey instructed applicants to download forms from the state’s Department of Justice page and submit them to Downey Police Department Sgt. Todd Lockwood until new procedures are in place.
Meanwhile, South Gate has yet to schedule a public hearing to discuss its concealed weapon program, but it might soon as residents begin to make inquires, City Clerk Yodit Glaze said.