Requests from more than 16,000 Californians to carry a concealed gun in public are in limbo, pending a final decision in a landmark lawsuit that’s scheduled to be reheard today in a federal courtroom in San Francisco. Some of these requests are in file boxes down the street at the San Francisco Police Department, which saw a spike in applications after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s “good cause” requirement as unconstitutional last year.

Should that decision be overturned, odds are that none of the applications will be approved; San Francisco has issued fewer permits in the last five years than any other county in the state.

This is partly because so few people apply, knowing they are unlikely to receive a permit and not wanting a denial on their record. Each of the 13 applications submitted to the city’s police department last year still are pending. (Most applicants haven’t gone through a state background check and therefore aren’t included in the state Department of Justice’s database.)

Typically a few pages long, the applications quickly get personal with details seemingly unrelated to guns. At least two applicants admitted to smoking marijuana in college, for example. Others delve into work history and threats of violence on the job, while some highlight relationships gone bad and subsequent restraining orders.

Here’s a look at some of the pending applications:

Some applicants were brief and to the point, like the consultant who simply wrote “self-defense” as his reason for wanting to carry his Sig Sauer P226 9 mm pistol.

Others said they needed a gun because they handled money or other valuables, like the bus driver who described himself as an “easy target” when carrying large sums of cash. Or the security guard who said his store had been robbed by the “Pink Panthers.”

A Department of Homeland Security employee, who previously held a concealed carry permit in Washington, applied to carry a gun while on temporary military status. A pastry chef who works early-morning hours wrote in her application, “I have never been directly threatened but being alone at those hours I feel the need of protection as a just in case sort of scenario.”

Another woman applied for a permit because she heard about how “a young boy was killed for trying to sell a PS3 (PlayStation 3). I’ve also been thinking of selling some of my shoes and I would feel safer knowing I am able to carry a concealed weapon,” she wrote in her application.


The numbers

70,593 – The number of Californians with an active concealed carry permit. That’s about 0.2 percent of the state population, well below the national average. There are an estimated 11 million concealed gun permits nationwide, representing about 5 percent of the population.

316 – The number of judges permitted to carry a concealed gun in California. More than a quarter of them – 87 – reside in Los Angeles County, more than twice the next highest county.

16,106 –The number of pending permits as of Dec. 31, 2014. This number has gone up every year since 2012, when there were fewer than 5,000 pending permits. Many are on hold until the 9th Circuit Court issues its final decision in Peruta v. San Diego County.

Of the roughly 70,000 active permits in California, more than half are clustered in seven counties:

Fresno: 7,647
Kern: 6,479
Shasta: 5,906
Sacramento: 5,769
Tulare: 3,967
San Bernardino: 3,264
Orange: 3,132
Source: California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms

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Matt Drange is a reporter for Reveal, covering the business of guns. He previously reported on Silicon Valley and the intersection of technology and the environment. He won a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California chapter for his work on the Toxic Trail investigation, which exposed how mismanagement of Superfund cleanup sites often leads to substantially more harm than good. Prior to joining Reveal, Drange worked for the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, where he wrote about malfeasance in state government and the influence of money in politics. Drange started his career covering police and courts for the Eureka Times-Standard in California. He earned a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and did his undergraduate work at Humboldt State University. Drange is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.