[This is the third post in a 5 part series] – In the rest of the country, a state issued license to carry a concealed weapon (CCW) is physically just like a Drivers License. It’s printed on plastic, contains a photo and a unique serial number, and is tied to a central database so an officer can check it’s validity from his or her in car terminal at any point in time. In California, this license is printed on sheet of paper, contains no photo or unique serial number, and the only way to check it’s validity is to call the specific department where it was issued during office hours and and ask them to verify it. Yes, anyone with 10 minutes at a Kinkos and an eye for detail could make a fake CCW that depending on the time of day would be impossible to verify. I’d like to ask our elected officials step up to fix this massive security problem.
Before I go any further let me show you what I mean – This is a scan of a CCW issued by the State of Florida, and this is a blank CA license. The actual CA licenses that I’ve seen in person have all been filled out on a type writer, sometimes with actual White Out used for any corrections, included no photo, and at first glance looked like a photocopy. Upon further inspection you can see they are printed on something a little thinner than typical copier paper, but if you wanted to make a fake one it would be one of the easier things things you could forge. But because there is no central database of these and there are so many security holes in how these are made and distributed, you might actually be able to buy one out of a back door, you’d just need to know which one to knock on.
Let’s look at these a little closer. As you can see from production numbers on the scan, this form is circa 1999, every license I’ve seen in person has had the same numbers at the bottom indicating that is the most recent print run. It’s assumed these all come from one print shop but in reality there could be several – we really have no way of knowing for sure. We know the CA DoJ orders them, but no idea from where. This print shop most likely knows what they are printing, and it’s not a huge assumption that every one of these they print gets sent to the DoJ. An actual CCW license could fetch a large price tag and the people printing them probably know this. This is a massive temptation that can’t be discounted. Again, there is no auditable record of how many are ordered, printed, or delivered to the DoJ. Police and Sheriff’s departments are the issuing authority here in CA, so presumably they request blank licenses from the DoJ and receive a stack of them. Is there any method in place to track how many a department receives at any given point in time? Not that I’m aware of, and since the licenses do not have a unique serial number, there is no way to verify or track these blank forms.
Now that these blank forms are sitting at the Police or Sheriff’s departments, the same issues exist as the blank ones at the print shop. Law enforcement officers are people too, and there is no way to track or monitor that some of these are not being sold by officers themselves. Again, the lack of any kind of unique serial number means the possibility for “off the books” licenses is extremely high. For example, in San Benito County, the CA DoJ shows that there has only been one license issued, however in this article Undersheriff Pat Turturici said there are about 20 to 25 active concealed weapon permits in the county. In the same story San Benito Sheriff Curtis Hill estimated that he received a renewal request every other month, or 6 a year. With licenses being valid for 2-4 years, you can see that math isn’t adding up at all. That’s a bunch of licenses that the DoJ doesn’t have on record. This is a bad, bad thing.
Once the license is issued it is assigned a serial number, but again we’re forced to assume the accounting of these numbers is correct. With no central database of issued licenses an Officer who is presented with one has to call the office that issued it. If this call takes place outside of business hours in most cases there will be no one there who can look up the validity of the license. If an officer pulls someone over in the middle of the night and is presented with a CCW he has to decide to either assume it’s legitimate, or assume it’s a fraud, arrest the person for carrying a firearm, and then deal with the repercussions the following day if it turned out to be legit. That’s not an attractive decision to make, and not one any officer would have to make if CCW licenses were harder to fake and tied to a central state database like they are in the rest of the country.
Other Posts In This Series
Part 2: Feuer’s Microstamping Bill Is Pointless
Part 3: California’s CCW Licenses Are Too Easy To Fake
Part 4: The Art of Turning Victims Into Criminals
Part 5: de Le√≥n’s Bill is Misdirected – Who Can Buy Ammo Is More Important