When Tom Scocca applied to Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith three years ago for a permit to carry a concealed firearm, he thought he had all the right stuff.
Not only was he a former police officer and sheriff’s deputy working as a security manager at a major Silicon Valley tech company, he owned an investigative firm and was already licensed to openly carry a loaded gun.
But the sheriff turned him down.
Now that denial is the basis of a federal lawsuit in which Scocca alleges that Smith issues concealed-weapons permits in an arbitrary and capricious way.
The article is an absolute must-read. Most civilians I know don’t even bother applying for a CCW in Santa Clara County because they don’t personally know the Sheriff and know her reputation for only approving those that have contributed to her election campaign. The Mercury News did a great job of reporting the obvious suspicious activity of the Sheriff’s Office.
Compared with sheriffs in most surrounding counties, however, Smith is a permit tightwad. In San Mateo County, which has 40 percent fewer people than Santa Clara County, at least 142 permits have been issued. There are 186 permit holders in Contra Costa County, 140 in Alameda County and 27 in tiny Santa Cruz County. The lists are public record.
It’s no secret that Santa Clara County has a small number of CCW holders. It has declined since Laurie took office. There are 1.9 million Santa Clara County residents, and only 49 “civilian” permit holders (at least 3 of whom are ex-government employees). It’s a simple matter of when exercising discretion becomes abusing discretion.
An analysis by this newspaper of campaign contributions to Smith since 2004 shows that the sheriff has received thousands of dollars from current permit holders and their relatives, or companies they own or work for — although Stevens, the deputy county counsel, insists there is no connection.
Of course there’s no connection! Nothing to see here people. Move along.
According to the state penal code, applicants must be residents in the county or city that issues the permit, or spend a substantial amount of time at their job or business there. But it’s up to the sheriff or police chief who issues the permits to decide what determines residency, said Steve Lindley, chief of the state’s Bureau of Firearms.
One permit holder, Bart Dorsa, who is a grandson of Eggo frozen-waffle inventor Frank Dorsa Sr., lives in Moscow, his father, Frank Dorsa Jr., told this newspaper. In fact, he’s lived there since 2003, according to Bart Dorsa’s own words in an August TV report from a Russian news channel that shows the filmmaker and visual artist in Moscow pedaling a large, fire-spewing metallic “duckmobile.”
Dorsa first received a permit in 1995 and, over the years, has written in his applications that he dealt in precious metals and carries large sums of cash; he also wrote that he needed a gun when scouting remote locations for his films.
Dr. Gary Zoellner, an orthopedic surgeon who had been a reserve deputy, had a permit for eight years until 2009. But he’s been in Yuma, Ariz., for the past seven years, according to his office manager there.