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Irwindale's Small but Big on Issuing Gun Permits

August 27, 1989|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

When Newhall attorney Gary Symonds applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, he didn't rely on the local police but instead made the 45-mile drive from his home to Irwindale.

Irwindale Police Chief Julian Miranda had never met Symonds, but he granted the permit after a background search and interview, explaining: "I guess it was one of those days I was understanding."

Retired businessman Anthony Rich Jagunich also made the trip to Irwindale when he wanted a concealed weapons permit. Even though Jagunich lives in Alhambra, he was granted a permit.

"I don't even go shopping without it," Jagunich said, reciting a litany of urban horror stories: rape, robbery and assault, none of which has ever happened to him. "With this on my hip, at least I stand a chance."

For those who want to carry a weapon in their coat or car, Irwindale may be the place to go.

Miranda granted 30 permits last year--the third-highest number approved by any law-enforcement agency in Los Angeles County--although Irwindale is one the smallest cities in the county with just 1,200 residents.

The list of legally armed citizens includes Vice Mayor Pat Miranda (the police chief's older brother), Assistant City Manager Alfred F. Herrera, Chamber of Commerce Director Joseph Discianni and public relations consultant Xavier Hermosillo, architect of the city's efforts to woo the Los Angeles Raiders.

In addition to the group of city officials, a number of out-of-towners have been granted permits, including a Los Angeles liquor store owner, a Glendora diamond merchant and a husband-wife team of gun dealers from West Covina.

What they have all found in Irwindale is one of the county's most liberal interpretations of California's concealed weapons law.

The law allows sheriffs and police chiefs to grant permits, valid throughout the state, as long as they believe the applicant is of "good moral character" and has a "good cause."

The vagueness of those two terms has resulted in a baffling array of interpretations.

In some jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles, concealed weapons permits are virtually impossible to get.

The Pasadena Police Department has issued no permits in at least the last three years, despite applications from a member of the Board of Directors, a paraplegic and a domestic-law attorney whose life had been threatened.

"No one has qualified," said Lt. Wes Rice, who is in charge of screening applicants. "I mean, a lot of people will say, 'Hey, I carry around a lot of cash so can I carry a gun.' Well, as far as we're concerned, hire a guard."

Irwindale lies at the other end of the regulatory spectrum.

"You can talk to the chief of police in a small city," Symonds said in support of Irwindale and with a trace of disdain for departments that make it hard for citizens to legally carry a weapon.

Chief Miranda has granted permits to a secretary, a truck driver, a corporate security officer and a general contractor--none of whom, he agrees, are in any more danger than, say, the town custodian, who also has a concealed weapons permit.

"I figure I know the guy and he is going to use good judgment," Miranda said. "If the public doesn't want us to give permits, let them change the law."

Miranda's attitude toward concealed weapons permits, although liberal compared to other cities in Los Angeles County, is actually on the conservative side in the overall scheme of things.

In some jurisdictions, concealed weapons permits are handed out not by the dozens, but by the hundreds or even thousands.

More than 3,860 permits were issued in Kern County last year, easily eclipsing the 362 granted in all of Los Angeles County, which has 17 times the population. Bakersfield alone issued 424 permits last year.

In tiny Sierra County, with just 3,400 residents, 94 permits were issued last year, meaning that one out of every 35 residents could legally carry a concealed weapon.

In Los Angeles County, Irwindale's permit count is topped only by Culver City with 98 and Montebello with 36.

Concealed weapons permits allow people to carry loaded handguns on their persons or in their cars. Keeping a weapon at home or in a place of business requires no special permit.

Some of the most common recipients are judges and reserve police officers; in some cities, such as Alhambra and San Gabriel, they are the only ones who currently hold permits.

Of the 30 permits approved by Miranda, one is held by a former municipal judge and four by active reserve officers.

The rest are in the hands of a broad cross section of the community whose need for carrying a weapon is sometimes more perceptual than real, Miranda said.

Consider the case of Irwindale city custodian Floyd R. Reyes, who has had a permit for 14 years.

Miranda said Reyes applied for a concealed weapons permit because he works alone early in the morning hours cleaning the buildings of the City Hall complex. As far as he knows, Reyes has never been in any danger while working, Miranda said. The Police Department is located next to City Hall.

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