SACRAMENTO – Six years ago when Scott Jones became Sheriff of Sacramento County he promised to make it easier for people to get a concealed weapons permit. So far, he has lived up to that promise.
Since August of 2011, the number of concealed weapons permits, or CCWs, has soared from 887 to 7,478 in January of 2016.
When asked if Jones believes more people should carry, he simply answered, “Yes.”
“People face the same dangers that I do. They have a desire to protect themselves and their family,” said Sheriff Jones. “The flavor of the country has changed over the last year or two, and it is not so much about being a victim of a mugging or getting money out of the ATM. Now, you have the real threat of terrorism.”
Dr. Garen Wintemute is an emergency room doctor at UC Davis and a researcher on gun violence. He says the country changed in 2012 beginning with Aurora and then Sandy Hook and San Bernardino where “public mass shootings” have become more frequent.
But he says while those shootings create fear, the fear is more perception than reality.
“Mass shootings are uncommon, they account for less than 1-percent of all firearm deaths in the United States,” said Dr. Wintemute. “But mass shootings have the potential of changing the character of American public life.”
Change is exactly what is happening to the makeup of Sacramento County under Sheriff Jones where 90 percent of all CCW applications are approved by his office.
“I wish it was more,” said Jones.
The county is now on track to become number one in the state for CCW’s, but Sacramento County already leads the state in another category—revocations, people who have had their concealed weapon permit taken away.
Our ABC10 investigation found 101 people had their permits revoked in the past two years. Those permits were taken away for violations ranging from brining a weapon to the airport, to DUI’s, child abuse and drug related charges.
But our ABC10 investigation also found two frightening case.
In November of 2014, just across from the State Capitol at the Hyatt Regency, Sacramento Police detained a man with a CCW.
According to the police report, a hotel worker entered the man’s room and found “hundreds of rounds and boxes of various caliber ammunition.
Police say he, “expressed animosity towards the government.”
And he also bragged about his skills with a rifle saying he could, “Shoot it at 200 yards accurately placing rounds within a 3-inch grouping.”
The man was place on what is called a 51-50 psychiatric hold and his CCW permit was immediately revoked.
And then in November of 2011 a traffic stop turned deadly in Elk Grove.
68-year old Richard Bisbee, who was a long time concealed weapons permit holder, shot a CHP officer. Bisbee was eventually killed by Elk Grove Police while trying to get away, the officer survived.
The gun Bisbee used was not the one he was licensed to carry, and the permit was issued before Jones took office, but the incident happened on his watch and he defended his office’s CCW policy.
“And the reality is he has been a holder of a CCW in at least two other counties, for over two decades,” said Jones in 2011. “There were no red flags, there were no convictions to prevent him from possessing a concealed weapons permit.”
“Is it a perfect system? I hope so, but probably not because it is a human system,” said Jones. “And if we do have a failure that will be weighty, that will be on that side of the balance scale, but I have given 7500-8000 people the ability to protect themselves, and guess what, so far, knocking on wood, nobody has abused that privilege.”
Dr. Wintemute says Jones in many ways is conducting a “countywide experiment.”
“When we raise or lower the drinking age, when we raise or lower the speed limit, when we make any sort of change that is an experiment,” said Wintemute. “As a scientist, I am interested in knowing whether that has turned out to be a bad thing or a good thing for public safety in Sacramento.”
In the meantime, Sheriff Scott Jones does not apologize.