- Aug 2, 2019
- Central Ma.
Applications have risen since Supreme Court ruling on gun rightsFrom Today's WSJ.
Be careful what you wish for Anti's, your policies are driving up the ownership of firearms in this Country.
SAN FRANCISCO—A San Francisco electrician hides his gun case in a backpack and his ammunition in a toolbox when he loads up his van for a day at the shooting range some 20 miles outside the city.
Though he shares many of the liberal values of his neighbors—“I am an equality-loving pronoun-checking, hippie, San Francisco guy”—he conceals his status as a gun owner, worried that they would ostracize him if they knew.
The 42-year-old is one of 285 residents seeking a permit to carry concealed weapons in public in a city that has long had some of the tightest firearm restrictions in the country.
The San Franciscans who want to carry guns include software engineers, accountants, middle managers and firearms instructors. They fall along the entire political spectrum, but many have at least one thing in common: They don’t want to be identified because they are worried about judgment from their neighbors or employers.
Their names are discoverable under public records law with some exceptions, according to legal experts.
Cities such as San Francisco that routinely denied such permits have received a flood of applications since the Supreme Court ruled for the first time last summer that the Second Amendment protects Americans’ right to carry guns outside the home for self-defense. In the past, authorities here said they received fewer than 20 applications a year.
Democratic leaders in states such as New York and California have sought to pass measures to blunt the effects of the ruling by imposing more thorough background investigations or training requirements for those seeking to carry concealed weapons in public. But a judge put most of the New York law on hold in October, and California’s failed to pass the state legislature.
That has left municipalities unaccustomed to issuing permits scrambling to come up with their own rules. In San Francisco, applicants must take a firearms training course and undergo a psychological exam, an extremely high bar for a U.S. city.
Most cities in California have begun issuing permits, but so far, the sheriff’s office and the police department in San Francisco have collectively approved just one permit since the Supreme Court ruling last June.
The slow pace has led to complaints from gun owners.
Andrew Solow, a 68-year-old private investigator, applied for a permit seven months ago to protect himself when he ventures into dangerous neighborhoods. He is still waiting for approval.
“That’s an obscenely long amount of time—it’s ludicrous,” he said. “I’m a licensed investigator.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Solow said he walks with a 66-inch wooden staff for self-defense.
A San Francisco police spokeswoman said the department “has been carefully undertaking great and reasonable efforts to expeditiously administrate a legal procedure” to grant applications.
“We have to be very thorough in our vetting process,” said Tara Moriarty, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office.
San Francisco has a long history of strict firearms laws. The city’s last gun store and gun club both closed in 2015. As most states—and even many cities in California—began loosening restrictions on carrying concealed weapons in the past decade, the city remained an island. The police department said that before the Supreme Court ruling it issued just two permits for concealed weapons.
Catherine Stefani, a San Francisco supervisor, said she is drafting legislation to toughen standards for carrying firearms in public and to set out a list of sensitive places where guns will be restricted. Ms. Stefani criticized the Supreme Court decision as misguided and said it would “unleash more guns on our streets.”
Several permit seekers say they want to carry a firearm with them for self-defense.
The city has long had a high property crime rate, but while homicides spiked during the pandemic, the murder rate here is lower than many other large cities. The city’s homicide rate in 2021 climbed to 6.4 per 100,000 residents from 5.4 a year earlier; the national homicide rate in 2021 was 6.9 per 100,000, according to city and federal crime data.
A 30-year-old manager at a distribution company said he sought a permit because of crime in his southeast San Francisco neighborhood and because of the highly publicized attacks against Asian residents during the pandemic.
“A lot of my friends who never had an interest in firearms before started stockpiling for the same reasons: lack of police response and the rise of Asian hate,” said the man who is Asian-American.
The 42-year-old electrician, a San Francisco native, said he wanted to carry a gun because he felt the city had become more dangerous since he was a child, when he says he would skateboard in the middle of the night.
“I’m not looking to help the cops. I’m not looking to be a tactical guru,” he said. “My sole position at this point is to be able to, as best as I can, protect myself and my family from someone that would have the wherewithal to do us harm.”
Write to Zusha Elinson at [email protected]