The city of La Verne’s recently announced concealed weapons permit policy has drawn a threat of legal action over the cost of the permits.
The La Verne City Council unanimously approved the La Verne Police Department’s concealed carry weapon application fees during the Feb. 21 city council meeting. The Police Department announced their acceptance of CCW permit applications to the La Verne community via their website and social media platforms on Feb. 23.
The city received a pre-litigation letter on Feb. 27 from Konstadinos T. Moros, an associate at Michael and Associates, P.C., who represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association. According to the letter, the CRPA believes that the CCW application fees and requirements are unreasonable. The city had until March 13 to respond.
The city stopped issuing CCW permits in 2015 when Chief Scott Pickwith, who retired in 2016, decided that the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department should handle the process.
The LASD declared on Aug. 1, 2022 that it would no longer process CCW applications for incorporated cities in the county that were not served by the department. It urged applicants outside their jurisdiction to contact their local police departments regarding CCW applications.
La Verne City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow said the city was forced by default to handle the application process when LASD’s decision was announced.
“That really left the obligation to the city,” Barlow said. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a process that a lot of cities necessarily want to take on. But it’s sort of been thrust upon them, because they’re the only other option under the penal code.”
The Police Department has partnered with MyCCW.us, an independent vendor, to make the application process easier. The vendor will be in charge of background checks, scheduling psychological exams and referring applicants to safety and weapons courses. The department will be responsible for the live scan fingerprinting, weapon verification, conducting a thorough review of all the information they receive from MyCCW and scheduling an interview between the applicant and the Chief of Police.
La Verne Police Sgt. Martin Weinreb, who is in charge of the CCW program, said the reasoning behind the department’s choice to seek an outside vendor was because there was not enough personnel to do the process in-house.
“For example, larger agencies have specific units that do specific things like directed enforcement or it can be a number of things,” Weinreb said. “The bottom line is, there’s a lot of work that goes into looking at applications and conducting a complete background check. It’s the lack of time and personnel.”
For first-time applicants the process will be $1,081. Every two years permit holders will have to renew their license for an average of $600.
Moros said applicants brought it to his attention that La Verne had over $1,000 fees for concealed carry permits.
“Even though we don’t usually do that much with small cities, that really caught my attention, because it’s generally expensive to get a carry permit in California. Even the expensive places are $500, maybe $600 at most, but La Verne is just blowing them out of the water,” Moros said.
The letter mentioned that having applicants submit letters of recommendations is unconstitutional, illegal under California law and violates the privacy of applicants.
“Criminals don’t bother applying to carry guns legally, they just carry anyway,” Moros said. “They don’t bother with permits, they carry guns wherever they want, and they don’t apply. To say that these people who have already come to the city asking how they can do this legally needs to provide reference letters. It’s a waste of time because these people are not going to commit crimes.”
Barlow said the department is not asking for reference letters, but when background checks are being conducted by most police departments, they will ask for names of people who they could contact.
“We are allowed to inquire appropriately into whether they are a person of good character,” Barlow said. “That is a requirement under the code, it is the kind of requirement that has been in place for a very long time.”
The letter also recommends getting rid of the psychological exams as a way to lower the application fees.
“When you do a background check, when you buy a gun or when you apply for a CCW permit it’s already going to check if you’ve been involuntarily committed, or have other serious psychological issues in your background,” Moros said. “Having people submit to an invasive psychological exam is not only a waste of time but it also adds another $150 in expense when the city should be looking for ways to cut.”
La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn said the police department decided to include the psychological exams in the application because it is important to know that the mind and body of someone who is carrying a concealed carry weapon is OK.
“They felt it was for the safety of all of our residents for someone that’s going to be a concealed carry person,” Hepburn said.
The Police Department released a statement that explains their reasoning for including psychological exams in the process. According to the document the department had various discussions with Barlow and the Police Department psychologist along with reviewing studies and reviews of their departments with CCW programs that led to their decision.
The city held their first council meeting since the announcement of the CCW permit applications on March 6. During public comment many people discussed the fees saying they were unreasonable and some did not agree with the psychological exam. A few people also commented on the situation stating that the city had their reasons for the high fees and that they believed psychological exams were necessary to keep the community safe.
Council members were not able to make any comments because the topic was not on the agenda.
Thomas Allison, assistant professor of legal studies at the University of La Verne, said he had his students watch the council meeting because he believes students should be involved in the discussion that takes place in the city because it directly impacts them.
“We’re talking about providing people the opportunity to travel with these weapons undetectable, because they can conceal them until they get to the target where they want to do harm,” Allison said. “And so everybody needs to be concerned about this. All schools need to be concerned about this. The University needs to be concerned.”
Moros stated in a Tweet on March 13 that he has received a response from Barlow attempting to defend the city’s high fees and that the CRPA will continue to closely monitor the situation.
The city council will revisit the topic in their next meeting April 3.
Samira Felix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.