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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
How I (and 4 Million Friends) Successfully Fought City Hall

A couple of years ago I tried to start a gun-rights organization called CESA, the Committee to Enforce the Second Amendment. It never grew very large because I soon found out that NRA and other organizations were starting to get into the very areas I wanted to focus on with a lot more vigor (particularly after the LA riots); but I started getting in touch with major gun rights theorists and activists regularly at that point.

I was particularly interested in the CCW (concealed-carry weapons) license issue, because California law says you can’t carry a loaded gun without one, and it was almost impossible to get. (I stress “almost”; I found the way into one soon enough – but I had to move to do it.)

I called Don Kates, who’s a well-known criminologist, professor of constitutional law, and a constitutional lawyer himself, and told him about the Board Policy of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, which, in essence, said that even though California Penal Code 12050 required them to consider issuing CCW licenses to county residents of good moral character who could show good cause for carrying a firearm, they didn’t believe there were any good causes so they were going to make it as difficult as possible. They implemented this policy by denying all license applications for 19 years.

When I read that policy to Don and asked if it could be successfully overturned in court, he said, “Yes, but –” The “but” was the necessity of finding plaintiffs and getting money to pursue the lawsuit. I gave him a list of plaintiffs. He called Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, expressed his opinion that he could overturn the policy, and Alan agreed to write the checks.

Here’s how I described it in the press release I wrote:

Reversing an apparent national trend of ever-increasing firearms restrictions on private citizens, the Los Angeles Police Department has resumed issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons to private citizens for the first time since 1974. The 4-0 vote to return issuing authority to Police Chief Willie Williams, approved June 29, 1993 as one of the final acts by the Mayor-Bradley-appointed Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, was instituted in response to a lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation and the Congress of Racial Equality, and later joined by the National Rifle Association, on behalf of individuals who had unlawfully been denied such licenses by the police commission’s policy.

Security Consultant D. Ray Hickman, one of the plaintiffs in this suit and a similar federal lawsuit, will be receiving his license at the Gun Detail office at LAPD’s Parker Center at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, September 7, 1993. Ironically, because the LAPD’s Gun Detail did not have the equipment necessary to physically produce the licenses, plaintiffs in the lawsuit dug into their own pockets and donated a typewriter, a Polaroid camera, and a laminating machine to LAPD.

California Penal Code Section 12050 requires a city’s chief of police to issue CCW licenses to county residents of good moral character who can show good cause. The state’s legislatively-mandated licensing procedure specifies a two-page application form, requires a fingerprint background check with both the state Department of Justice and the FBI, lists the firearms to be carried on the license, and requires the licensee to show proficiency with the weapon carried.

The California Department of Justice is unaware of any cases where a person issued a California CCW license has used it for criminal activities.

The “good cause” requirement for obtaining a CCW license includes both business reasons such as risk because of one’s profession or providing protection services to others, and personal reasons, such as threats to one’s self or family. The requirement that chiefs of police issue CCW licenses to qualified individuals is enactment of Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution, which states, “All people are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

Contrary to popular opinion, neither state nor local government has any legal requirement to provide crime protection to a threatened individual, and no government entity or employee has any liability for failure to do so. (California Government Code Sections 845, 845.2, 845.8, and 846). Government entities and employees are also shielded from liability for issuing CCW licenses (California Government Code 818.4 and 821.2).

A quarter of the gun owners polled by the Los Angeles Times just before the April, 1992 riots admitted to carrying illegally on occasion.

If Police Chief Willie Williams issues CCW licenses in Los Angeles at a rate proportionate to the rate he issued them as Police Chief of Philadelphia — where he signed around 4000 CCW licenses — then Los Angeles should see approximately 10,000 licenses issued in the next few years.

Because of my involvement in this issue from the beginning, and several LA Times Op-Ed pieces I’d written demonstrating the usefulness of civilians carrying firearms by saving large groups of people, I got tapped to run the press conference in front of Parker Center at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, September 7, 1993. It turned out to be a media circus, with five TV crews, representatives from all the major radio stations in town, and the major Southern California newspapers. I had other people to shove in front of the TV cameras – Dan Gifford, a former ABC News and McNeill/Lehrer newsman who had got the first LAPD-issued CCW after Chief Williams, Elodie McKee, an actress and gun-rights activist, and Ray Hickman (referenced above), but I ended up being the person whom the radio and print media wanted to talk to, because Dan and Elodie were in front of the TV cameras, and Ray was upstairs at Parker Center getting his license.

So I got quoted a lot.

I had also just done an hour on Michael Jackson’s talk show on KABC radio that morning, so it was a pretty busy day. I got the call from Jackson’s producer at 9, was in studio an hour later, then after the show rushed home to field press inquiries and fax out more releases while I was trying to get into my suit to get downtown to Parker Center for the conference.

All in all, it’s been a great victory for the gun-rights cause because we finally got some coverage of our point of view. My phone has been ringing constantly with inquiries by people who have good cause for carrying firearms and want to do whatever they can do to help. Three new local-area attorneys have signed into the cause — two from Beverly Hills. Yay!

I’ll be working with a watchdog committee to track whether LAPD stays in compliance with the settlement terms. If they don’t, the lawsuit will move forward in around six months or a year. But there’s so much new pressure on them, I doubt they’ll be effective at offering resistance, and they should be issuing a lot of licenses over the next few years.

Update, February, 1994: As of this writing, I am hearing reports that very few licenses have been issued; that the Los Angeles Police Department’s Gun Detail telephone is busy all the time; and that applications are backed up at least six months without a response. I don’t yet know if this is bureaucratic business-as-usual, or active resistance to issuing licenses from Chief Willie Williams’s office. Either way, it seems that the City of Los Angeles is not in compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement, and further legal pressure will need to be brought to bear. — JNS

[Update for this edition: The City of Los Angeles is now under a court-enforced consent decree, and all rejected applications are now reviewed by a citizen’s review board. It’s still a discretionary process to get a license to carry from the City of Los Angeles, but it’s at least a process in which some deserving individuals can manage to get one, if they take the time and effort to apply properly, with a well-thought-out reason for carrying. Meanwhile, the California Assembly has passed AB 638 — which would change California law to make issuance of licenses non-discretionary for qualified applicants — and the bill is under consideration in the California state senate as of this writing. Whether it will pass or not is uncertain. — JNS, 1996]


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Copyright © 1994, 1999 J. Neil Schulman &
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