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New O.C. sheriff to review all concealed-weapons permits

Sandra Hutchens says she wants to ensure that those issued licenses by Carona have a good reason.

June 18, 2008|Stuart Pfeifer and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Newly appointed Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said Tuesday that she intends to review all the concealed-weapons permits that her indicted predecessor issued and revoke those of gun owners who can't prove a legal need to carry the weapons.

When former Sheriff Michael S. Carona resigned in January to focus on his upcoming federal corruption trial, he had issued more than 1,100 active carry permits -- among the most issued by any sheriff or police chief in the state. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, by contrast, has issued fewer than 400.

Many were issued to traditional holders: judges, prosecutors, jewelers or others whose occupation leaves them in fear for their safety. But others included wealthy white-collar businessmen, doctors, dentists and financial contributors to Carona's political campaigns.

In its October indictment, a federal grand jury accused Carona of having issued a concealed-weapons permit to a businessman who had previously been convicted of unlawfully possessing a concealed weapon. Others to whom Carona issued licenses included Orange County Republican Party activists Michael Schroeder and Adam Probolsky. Schroeder could not be reached, and Probolsky declined to comment.

Hutchens said she intends to review each permit and determine whether the gun owners demonstrated an immediate fear for their safety or held an occupation so inherently dangerous that they needed to carry concealed weapons in public.

"The important thing to me is they need to have demonstrated a need," Hutchens said.

And if there's no need, she'll revoke the permits. "That's probably not going to be popular with a lot of people," she said.

Hayden Heal, a gun ownership advocate who served on a committee that drafted Carona's weapons permit policy, said he thought Hutchens was well advised to review the existing permits.

"I would be surprised if she didn't review all of the policies, especially when you have the controversies Carona had in his demise. I'm quite sure the new lady wants to make sure everything is squeaky clean and make sure there's no patronage," Heal said. "I think it would be in everyone's best interest to have them reviewed. It's not just the smart thing, but the right thing."

Carona's policy allowed people to be issued concealed-weapons permits if they passed background checks and demonstrated good cause, as determined by the sheriff.

Heal, who was issued a permit for self-protection in his role as a treasurer for a charitable foundation tied to the National Rifle Assn., said he has continually been asked to produce documentation to support his application. He is up for his two-year renewal this year.

"They always seem to want something on paper, so it's just not a handshake and a kiss, and here's your permit," Heal said.

In addition to her concerns about the concealed weapons, Hutchens said she would review the files of all reserve deputies, to make sure anyone serving as a volunteer is qualified and sincerely interested in helping the department.

Shortly after taking office in 1999, Carona appointed scores of campaign donors as reserve deputies, issuing them badges and in some cases guns without background checks or training. The appointments escaped public scrutiny until 2005, when a Los Angeles Times article raised questions about whether Carona was handing out badges as political favors -- an allegation he denied.

Over the years, several reserves with close ties to Carona have been caught misusing their credentials. In one of the most serious instances, Carona's longtime martial arts instructor was accused of flashing a gun and badge at members of a foursome playing ahead of him on a San Bernardino County golf course. Raymond Yi was convicted in May of making a criminal threat and could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

The department needs the reserves "if they are here for the right reasons. If you're here for personal gain, if you want a badge or a gun, we don't need you," Hutchens said. "It certainly shouldn't be a political favor."

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

christine.hanley@latimes.com

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