I just purchased a pistol. How do I get a concealed carry license in Sonoma County? Is it difficult?

Almost any Sonoma County resident can apply for a concealed carry license with the Sheriff’s Office or their local jurisdiction.

All that’s required is to complete an application, take no more than 16 hours of class from a law enforcement-approved instructor, show “good cause” for needing the license, have three references to support your “good moral character,” pass criminal background and psychological checks, and, depending on the jurisdiction, schedule an in-person interview. And there are fees at virtually every step.

But once that is done there’s no guarantee a conceal carry license will be issued: Sonoma County law enforcement has a strict interpretation of the “good cause” requirement set by the state of California.

In 2016 the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Second Amendment alone isn’t good cause enough to carry a concealed weapon. In Sonoma County, someone typically must demonstrate an unavoidable risk to their safety in order to have good cause.

“Being able to meet the basic qualifications is just the beginning,” said Sebastopol Police Chief James Conner. “While good cause can mean different things in different circumstances, bare fear of being victimized isn’t good cause to have a concealed carry weapon.”

Gabriel Vaughn, owner of the Sportsman’s Arms in Petaluma, said he’s asked about concealed carry licenses all the time.

“First, I say, pray for a miracle,” he said. “Second, refer to No. 1.”

Vaughn lives in Santa Rosa and owns a gun shop in Petaluma and hasn’t been able to get a two-year standard concealed carry license in either city. In other parts of the state owning a gun shop would constitute “good cause” for legally carrying a concealed weapon, but not in Sonoma County, he said.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office received 213 applications for concealed carry licenses from Jan. 1, 2016 to Nov. 14, 2017, and approved 132, about 62 percent.

Those numbers include concealed carry licenses given to judges, and federal and local law enforcement.

In Santa Rosa there are only four active concealed carry permits, said Sgt. Josh Ludtke. In 2017, three permits were requested but only one was granted.

The Sheriff’s Office handles concealed carry applications from unincorporated county areas Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Sonoma and Windsor.

Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol police departments issue their own licenses following countywide standards approved by the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chief Association.

“If I were in a rural county I would be more inclined to issue (concealed carry licenses),” said Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder, noting long response times by law enforcement could be considered good cause. “But in an urban area like Santa Rosa our response time is less than 5 minutes.”