SAN DIEGO – The number of people looking to obtain a concealed carry permit has significantly increased in San Diego County following the Supreme Court decision last year that expanded access to these licenses — a rise which comes as California has begun exploring new measures to again narrow eligibility.

Data obtained by shows that the number of applications for concealed carry weapons has more than doubled in the county since last year’s decision in the Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which eliminated the requirement for prospective applicants to have “good cause” for carrying a firearm.

Since the June ruling, the Sheriff’s department has received nearly 5,487 new applications for a concealed carry permit as of Feb. 16, with 998 applications coming in this year alone. 

About 4,586 of those applications are still waiting to be processed by the licensing department. This time last year, the Sheriff’s department said there were only about 2,214 unprocessed applications.

Each application can take up to several months to process, according to the Sheriff’s department, given background checks and live scans that needs to completed.

“The interest surrounding (concealed carry weapons) has always been a high number,” a spokesperson for the department said. “Recently, (however), it has multiplied substantially since the Supreme Court decision.”

New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen addressed a decades-old New York state law that required individuals seeking a concealed firearm permit to demonstrate what was known as “proper cause,” loosely interpreted as a specific need or reason why someone wants a firearm on their person.

California had a similar law on the books known as “good cause,” with the measure in practice mostly narrowing access to concealed carry weapons to those demonstrating a need for personal protection if an individual, their spouse or dependent child is in imminent danger.

The court in the 6-3 Bruen decision ruled that the clause of New York’s — and subsequently California’s — concealed carry permitting law was an unconstitutional restriction of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

“The court said that a requirement that someone had to have a special reason to carry a firearm was a violation of the Second Amendment,” Adam Winkler, professor with the UCLA School of Law and author of “Gunfight: The Battle of the Right to Bear Arms in America,” said to 

“The good cause requirement was a severe restriction on the ability of most people to carry a firearm in public, because most people couldn’t show they had a special reason to carry a firearm,” he continued.

Almost immediately after the decision was released, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a legal alert to local attorneys and law enforcement agencies stating that the “good cause” clause could no longer be enforced in light of the decision.

Other elements of California’s concealed carry law, such as the requirements to have “good moral character” and completed firearm training, remain in place.

Before the ruling, local law enforcement agencies in the state had historically had discretion in interpretation of these three requirements, with some being more strict in how they determine what constitutes meeting each of the conditions.

Since 2018, San Diego County has only denied a handful of applications each year even with the “good cause” clause: in 2021, which was the last full year with the requirement, about 1,870 applications were approved while 33 were denied.

But as Winkler explained, that discretion previously exercised by local law enforcement agencies, like the Sheriff’s Office, has been narrowed by the Supreme Court in Bruen, with decisions that are pushing towards easy permitting of concealed carry.

While the application process has become even easier in the county for those interested since last year, the sudden influx of applications has still inundated and overwhelmed the Sheriff’s department.

“The Supreme Court made clear that states could still require people who want to carry a concealed firearm to obtain a permit and that objective, relevant qualifications can be required,” Winkler said of the remaining restrictions. “The court did not say you have a right to carry a firearm without a permit, but (they) did not provide great clarity on exactly what kind of permitting requirements would be allowed.”

That ambiguity, Winkler explained, leaves the door open for California lawmakers to explore additional restrictions on the permitting processes, including a bill introduced last December.

The biggest changes the bill would implement would be expansions of “sensitive” places where permit-holders would not be able to carry a weapon and narrowing of requirements for what kind of review law enforcement agencies have to undergo to determine “moral character.”

As detailed in the bill, licensing agencies would be required to conduct interviews with the prospective applicant and character references to supplement standard background checks, in addition to through reviews of any “publicly available information” about the applicant like social media posts.

Should the bill be passed, Winkler said that it is likely that all of these provisions will be challenged by gun rights groups in the courts.

“There’s a lot of questions that remain as to what California can do with regards to concealed carry,” Winkler said. “None of the things that California is proposing in the new concealed carry bill are clearly and unambiguously unconstitutional under Bruen, but many of the provisions will be challenged and some may be struck down.”

He explained that the court’s move in the Bruen decision likely indicates a major roadblock for future gun control or gun violence measures in states like California.

“We’re seeing an expansion of Second Amendment rights and that comes at the expense of states on the cutting edge of gun violence prevention efforts,” Winkler said. “The expansion of gun rights means that it’s harder to take aggressive approaches to reduce gun violence.”