Residents of Silicon Valley’s largest city looking to obtain a concealed carry permit through their local police department need to be prepared to shell out serious money to do so.
The San Jose Police Department is now charging applicants for a license to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) an “initial application fee” of $1,290, according to its website. That price does not cover the state-mandated California Department of Justice application fee, nor does it include the costs of fingerprinting, psychological testing, or any expenses incurred to obtain the 16-hour training course required under state law.
Additionally, the Department’s application portal stipulates that it is currently only issuing licenses valid for one year instead of the two-year duration spelled out under California law and adopted by most other jurisdictions.
The city’s costly fee structure and one-year renewal schedule represent one of the common strategies being employed by jurisdictions opposed to the Supreme Court’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, and its recognition of public gun carry as a constitutional right. That decision held that subjective “may-issue” permitting standards like one San Jose used to employ must be scrapped in favor of regimes that issue permits to all lawful adults who meet objective criteria. The city’s decision to replace its old system with a pricer new one could once again attract legal rebuke.
In the same majority opinion striking down may-issue laws, Justice Clarence Thomas warned against jurisdictions putting objective licensing regimes “toward abusive ends.”
“We do not rule out constitutional challenges to shall-issue regimes where, for example, lengthy wait times in processing license applications or exorbitant fees deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for the San Jose Police Department told The Reload that the department determines its CCW permitting fees using a “time-task analysis model” that sets the price based on the amount of labor involved in processing applications.
“This model has our employees document the time it takes for our employee to complete the intake, processing and issuing of the specific permit, and that time is then multiplied by the cost of the specific employee,” they said. “This past year after completing several applications, the cost went up to the current price based on the time task analysis.”
As for the reduced renewal period, the department told The Reload it decided a one-year license was “reasonable and within the law.” However, the spokesperson said city officials were currently considering making changes “to coincide with surrounding agencies.”
“We are currently working with the Chief’s Office and City Attorney’s Office to evaluate if any changes will be made,” they said.
Amy Swearer, a Second Amendment scholar at the conservative Heritage Foundation, criticized San Jose’s fee structure for potentially making licensed gun carry financially unavailable to most residents.
“Double it for a married couple, and we’re no longer even talking about pricing ‘poor’ people out of their constitutional rights,” she wrote on X. “This is cost prohibitive for many middle-class/upper-middle class families.”
While San Jose’s CCW application fees appear to be the highest of any jurisdiction in the state, it is not the only city to adopt permitting costs ranging into the thousands. The City of La Verne, California, a Los Angeles County suburb, instituted a policy of charging more than $1,000 for first-time CCW applicants last March. The city is currently facing a lawsuit alongside the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department filed by the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) and several other gun rights groups.
Kostas Moros, a lawyer representing the CRPA in that suit, told The Reload that a favorable ruling for his clients could be used to stop San Jose’s expensive permitting regime.
“We are using CRPA vs. LASD as the test case on this issue,” he said. “If we win a preliminary injunction, we’ll then use that against places like San Jose and those with long wait times.”
While Moros is critical of the fees being charged by San Jose for CCW applicants, he called the situation faced by the city’s residents “a bit different” than the one facing La Verne’s similarly high fees.
“La Verne residents can’t apply with the L.A. Sheriff’s Department because that department won’t take applications from non-contract cities,” he said.
San Jose residents, on the other hand, are able to apply instead with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. He said that office’s permitting process is high but “far less” expensive than the other examples.
A review of the Office’s website shows that it costs applicants $480 to apply in Santa Clara County under current policy. That cost does not include the price of fingerprinting, state fees, or obtaining the required training course. The county’s permits are also valid for two years, in accordance with state law, as opposed to just one.
Both San Jose and Santa Clara County have, in recent years, been involved in high-profile attempts to restrict access to firearms using novel or even unscrupulous tactics. San Jose became the first jurisdiction in the nation to enact a mandatory insurance regime and annual tax for gun owners in January 2022. The policy has since been mired in litigation and still faces enforcement challenges.
Meanwhile, former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith was found guilty of providing CCW permits to VIPs in exchange for political donations and other favors in a 2022 civil trial. The permit bribery scheme occurred under the county’s former may-issue regime that generally denied ordinary residents access to permits, which ended because of the Bruen decision.
UPDATE 1-17-2024 5:48 PM EASTERN: This piece has been updated to include comments from the San Jose Police Department.