Concealed weapon ruling could mean big changes for Tracy
by Michael Langley
Feb 20, 2014 | 8861 views | 2 2 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Erik Sapone discusses his attempts in January to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon with all the certificates and paperwork from classes he had completed.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Erik Sapone discusses his attempts in January to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon with all the certificates and paperwork from classes he had completed. Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
Erik Sapone wants to protect his family and believes a permit to carry a hidden gun is a form of insurance. He applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in 2012 but was rejected because he lacked good cause.

Things may have changed Feb. 13 for Sapone and other local residents who want such a permit. The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that asking applicants to show enhanced reasons for good cause is unconstitutional.

“A shooting at the mall. A home-invasion robbery. Someone waiting behind the bushes. We don’t live in a friendly environment,” Sapone said in an interview Jan 17.

According to Tracy Chief of Police Gary Hampton, the requirements to obtain a concealed weapon permit include not having a felony record and having good character references, in addition to having good cause to carry one. He also pointed out that different jurisdictions used differing standards for good cause.

The Press interviewed Hampton about the city’s concealed weapon policy Feb. 11, before the ruling, and again Tuesday, after the court decision.

Hampton said Feb. 11 that he has relied upon the 1977 definition of a good cause to issue a permit by then-California Attorney General Evelle J. Younger. The opinion, rendered Aug. 23, 1977, reads in part: “Is there a clear and present danger to the applicant, his spouse, his family or his employees?”

“In my interpretation, the court has set a threshold of a good-cause standard that is different from the threshold most California police chiefs had adopted,” the chief said Tuesday.

Hampton said before the recent ruling that the 1977 standard appeared to be the right one for Tracy.

“When I look at our relatively low crime rate,” Hampton said Feb. 11, “when I look at the police resources on the street, and I look at 94 percent of our crime is property crimes — we had less than 160 violent crimes — it appears to be the right application of imminent danger.”

The Press obtained records, through a public records act request, about the number of permit applications in Tracy since 2009. The police department has received 11 applications to carry a concealed weapon. Hampton has approved five and denied three. One Tracy resident never finished his application, and two others, approved before Hampton’s tenure began in August 2011, are now inactive and have lapsed.

Sapone, a plumber who travels regularly to work, thinks people should not have to wait to be threatened before they have a legal right to carry a concealed weapon in public.

“I quite often work in Oakland, Hayward, Fremont. Some of the less-than-desirable parts of town,” he said. “I carry payroll on a regular basis. Sometimes I’ll have 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars’ worth of tools and equipment in the vehicle.”

Hampton said he had relied upon the 1977 opinion in part because there was no unified law governing concealed weapon permits.

“Across California, we’ve seen police chiefs and sheriffs adopt good-cause standards that cover the gamut. They’re very subjective,” Hampton said Tuesday. “Imagine having this applied different based upon where you live in the state. That’s a huge problem.”

The chief suggested that the ruling, if upheld by other courts, including the Supreme Court, could provide a good framework for California.

“There should be a statewide standard instead of the way it is now,” Hampton said Tuesday. “That’s where I think it’s going, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I think a statewide standard gives everybody equal access to a concealed weapon.”

Hampton asked city attorney Daniel Sodergren for a legal opinion about whether the department needed to change its policy immediately. Sodergren said Wednesday that he was still reviewing the lengthy opinion by the Ninth Circuit to answer that question.

“If I were to take this opinion and apply it to our current CCW policy and use that as cause, I would expect to see a significant increase in applications,” Hampton said Tuesday. “On the other hand, I don’t want to overreact to a very early opinion in a very long process and then issue permits that then have to be recalled at a later point. People should be patient. Tracy residents can rest assured their police chief will, in fact, make sure that our policies are in the strictest compliance with what the courts hand down.”

For Sapone, all the good cause he needs is his 4-year-old son.

“I would never want to imagine something happening where I had to either come home without him or him come home without me,” he said. “My wife either.”

• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at or 830-4231.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 22, 2014
Hampton - you didn't use this standard of imminent danger in Turlock. What happened? I hope Sapone reads the article below:
February 24, 2014
The ninth circuit decision is a great step forward. If you are a law abiding citizen who can demonstrate firearm competence and training, you can get a permit if *you* feel the need for carrying such a weapon. It no longer depends on whether Chief Hampton or any other arbitrary person wants you to have it.

Typically, in this state, the politically connected can get concealed carry permits. Off duty cops have permission to carry. Retired cops have such permits. Now, we all can get these, if we feel the need for the extra protection.

In most (39 out of 50) of the other states in the USA, the decision on whether a person can carry is not left up to caprice or whim. They are "shall issue" states where once competence is shown, they are required to issue upon citizen request.

Having citizens licensed to carry has had beneficial results in those states.

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at