The California Supreme Court refused Friday to review an appellate court ruling that Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates must disclose records of handgun permits to reporters who work for a Los Angeles television station.
The ruling gives KCBS-TV access to records of the names of Orange County handgun-permit holders and the reasons given by the Sheriff's Department for granting the permits.
Lt. Richard J. Olson, spokesman for Gates and the Orange County Sheriff's Department, said Friday night that there will be no comment on the Supreme Court decision until it is received and analyzed.
Appealing a Decision
Gates was appealing a Nov. 25 decision by the 4th District Court of Appeal, which based its decision on a state Supreme Court ruling last October against Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block in a similar case.
The station has said it is investigating favoritism and other possible abuses of the gun-permit process.
In the Block case, the state Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 last Oct. 9 that state public-records laws allowed access to local law enforcement records of applications to carry concealed weapons. The decision set a statewide precedent, and in effect the Supreme Court on Friday refused to reconsider that precedent.
Chief Justice Malcolm M. Lucas, who is from Orange County, took no part in the Gates decision on Friday. Lucas was replaced in the case by Justice Clinton White of the 1st District Court of Appeal.
Gates had argued against the KCBS-TV request for gun-permit information, contending that it was privileged information because the material is part of his office's investigative files.
Arthur Wahlstedt Jr., assistant Orange County counsel who represented Gates in the case, said in legal papers that the gun-permit records "would be of no use to the public in general and would provide to potential criminals a concise list of available handguns, money, jewels and drugs, together with the names and addresses, both business and personal, of the owner." The reference to "money, jewels and drugs" apparently referred to information on the permits as to why those seeking pistols needed the weapons.
Gates has said there were 401 pistol permits in Orange County as of April, 1983. Unlike Los Angeles County, where many municipalities also issue pistol permits, Orange County residents can get the permits only from the Sheriff's Department. All municipal police departments in Orange County have delegated the gun-permit power to the sheriff.
In the late 1970s, a political opponent of Gates, private investigator Preston Guillory, accused the sheriff of issuing gun permits chiefly to campaign contributors and friends. Gates denied the accusation but refused to disclose the records.
Wahlstedt said in November that he hoped the changes on the state Supreme Court might make it "more likely" for the high court to reconsider the gun-permit ruling. He was referring to the voters' ouster of Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird and Justices Cruz Reynoso and Joseph R. Grodin in the Nov. 4 election.
Olson, speaking for Gates Friday night, said: "In matters like this, it is pretty standard policy for us not to comment until we receive a copy of the decision. The decision will be looked over by us and county counsel before we have anything to say."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.