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City Could Face Lawsuit Over New Gun Licensing Fee

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By Jorge Casuso

March 20, 2023 -- A gun rights advocacy group is threatening to challenge Santa Monica's "ridiculous" concealed carry weapon (CCW) licensing fees, arguing they discourage residents from exercising their second amendment rights.

Under the fees approved by the City Council last Tuesday, Santa Monica residents will pay $617 -- plus $150 for a psychological exam -- for a license ("Council Sets Fees for Concealed Carry Weapon Licenses," March 15, 2023).

The total amount is $617 more than residents paid the LA County Sheriff's Department (LASD), which charged a total of $150 and required no psychological testing, before they stopped processing fees for the city.

The Council also set the renewal fee at $150, five times more than the $30 charged by the Sheriff's Department.

"Charging $767 (not including the training course) for the exercise of a constitutional right is not acceptable," Konstadinos T. Moros, an attorney representing the California Rifle & Pistol Association, warned the Council shortly before the unanimous vote.

In his warning, Moros included a copy of a letter he sent to the City of La Verne threatening a lawsuit over the same fees Santa Monica would unanimously approve.

"By charging such outlandish fees, the City is punishing the very people who are law-abiding and respectful of the process," Moros wrote.

"You are encouraging them to give up and, if they still must carry for their own safety, to do so illegally."

The Sheriff's office began requiring its independent municipalities, like Santa Monica, to process CCW licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court last June found that New York's law requiring a "proper cause" to carry a concealed weapon violates the 14th Amendment.

In his letter, Moros noted that Whittier and Glendora charge a total of $243, plus the cost of training. Meanwhile, both nearby La Verne and now Santa Monica have hired “MyCCW,” which will receive $398 to process each application, Moros noted.

"I think this extensive process implies that the City is afraid of these applicants exercising their constitutional right to carry," Moros wrote.

He noted that Councilmember Caroline Torosis expressed an interest in increasing the fee to deter residents from applying for CCW licenses.

"Should we recover more than just our cost?" Torosis asked City Attorney Doug Sloan at the meeting last Tuesday. "Especially if we are not trying to incentivize everyone to go out there and get a CCW permit."

"There would be a risk to that," Sloan responded.

In setting the fee, the Council used staff's estimate that it would take the Police Department ten hours of work per application at an estimated cost of $1,093.83, a cost Moros said is overblown.

There is no reason it needs to take hours and hours to process permits in-house," Moros wrote. "This can be done far more cheaply, as most other police and sheriff’s departments manage to do.

"This shouldn’t be more than a couple hours of work for each applicant."

Moros also questioned the need for a $150 psychological exam he said "the vast majority of issuing authorities in California do not require," including LASD.

"The idea that people who go out of their way get carry permits are a significant criminal threat is self-evidently wrong," he wrote.

"There is no threat here for the City to fear. These are good people. The criminals are already carrying illegally, and won’t be applying for a permit any time soon."

Moros noted that in Texas, which in 2020 had 1,626,242 active conceal carry weapon license holders, there were 1,441 convictions for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Of those four had a valid concealed weapon license.

According to City staff's report to the Council, LASD currently has approximately 150 applications filed by Santa Monica residents "in various phases of the process." Of those, most -- 83 -- are "in the queue," staff said.

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