By Ken Stone
Updated at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 19, 2017
Sheriff Bill Gore recalls sitting at work this summer, listening to Carl DeMaio on his KOGO radio talk show.
Even though the former San Diego City Council member was an early endorser of Gore for sheriff in 2010, DeMaio “really blasted me” over permits to carry a concealed weapon, Gore told a Republican women’s club this week.
DeMaio in June spoke of threats he’d received in his 2012 run for mayor and was critical of what he considered Gore’s failure to let any sane, trained and law-abiding citizen have a so-called CCW if they choose to apply.
“I didn’t call him,” Gore said at a Tuesday luncheon at the La Mesa Brigantine restaurant. “I know better than to pick up the phone” and take on a talk-show host.
“But I was sitting at my desk saying (to myself): ‘Carl, Carl, you gotta apply for one if you’re going to get one.’ Carl has never applied for a CCW.”
Laughter greeted that remark at a regular meeting of the Navajo Canyon Republican Women Federated.
Tackling sensitive issues and parrying tough questions, the Republican sheriff of San Diego County — facing a Democratic challenger from his own agency in 2018 — defended his stands on concealed weapons, the “sanctuary state” law and other topics.
In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of federal appeals court and district court rulings. It thus upheld the San Diego County policy that requires “good cause” for the sheriff to issue a permit to carry a concealed weapon in public.
The so-called Peruta Case — for San Diegan Edward Peruta, denied a permit for failure to show he was in harm’s way — has become a Republican rallying cry.
But Gore argued that he’s following California law — while trying to make it easier to obtain a CCW in San Diego County. He said 1,350 county residents have such permits now — four times the number of three-times-larger Los Angeles County.
“We’re really trying to broaden the categories and not be a stickler as far as waiting for an actual threat,” Gore said, noting the case of a female real-estate agent who once confronted him.
“She said: ‘Sheriff, I’ve had a gun my entire life. I know how to shoot it. I grew up with guns. In the nature of my business, I’m out … doing open houses, and I don’t know who’s going to walk through that door.”
Gore said he didn’t have a “comeback” for that. “And we shouldn’t have to have her get a threatening email from somebody (to prove she needs a CCW).”
He called that a “perfect category” for expanding the definition of “good cause.”
Gore said he talks to Michael Schwartz, executive director of the local gun owners group (who spoke on air to DeMaio that June day).
“He wants to take it to the other extreme of a self-defense good-cause requirement,” Gore said during a 45-minute appearance. “I said: ‘Michael, work with me. Let’s see if we can broaden it. It would satisfy a lot of your supporters. That’s what we’re trying to do right now.”
Further, Gore told the 70-member audience he tires of hearing people say they shouldn’t even apply for a CCW “because he won’t give you one.”“So apply,” Gore implored. “If you [have] anything out there that you can articulate short of ‘I want one,’ apply.”
(One woman in the audience triggered laughter by saying: “We voted for Trump, and they’re chasing us!”)
Noting that Orange County loosened its CCW rules after a 9th U.S. Circuit panel initially ruled against San Diego County, Gore predicted that “when [permit] renewals come in, they’ll start going back to their old [and stricter] policy.”
On the state’s immigration enforcement policy, Gore had praise for California’s Democratic governor.
“We should thank God” that Gov. Jerry Brown is in Sacramento, Gore said, noting his three hours of talks with Brown a week before the sanctuary bill was approved.
Gore said his input helped lead to “significant changes” in Senate Bill 54, which allowed ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to have a presence in county jails.
“I could picture [Brown] sitting at his desk with his sleeves rolled up,” Gore told the GOP women (and several men). “One of the staffers would say something and he says: ‘You don’t understand what the sheriff is saying. He had it right.”The ICE teams can’t have permanent space in jails, though, and Gore recalls asking Brown: “Governor, … do we have to move their desks every two weeks?”
Brown said: “Make it work,” and Gore replied: “We’ll make it work.”
Said the 70-year-old law enforcement veteran: “I think we got 80-85 percent of what we wanted. It’s not perfect. But it could have been so much worse.”
Gore said the original sanctuary bill said his department couldn’t even work with ICE in task forces — gang, narcotics and human smuggling, etc.
“We fought that,” he said. “It’s not included in the final bill. They said you couldn’t have ICE in your jails.. . That’s not the case (in bill).”
Gore said he didn’t abide arguments by “people on the far left” who think once you’re in this country, “it’s olly, olly, oxen free, free, free.”
On the other hand, he worried what might happen if policies espoused by the Trump administration were state law.
“I don’t want my deputies being immigration officers,” he said. “First of all, we don’t have the jurisdiction to do it.”
Second: “If you have 300,000 [undocumented] people in San Diego County that are afraid to report crimes, if they witness a crime, it makes all of us less safe.”
He said if his wife or secretary were attacked by somebody, “I would want one of these 300,000 people to step up and be a witness — and not be afraid of being deported by the Sheriff’s Department or the San Diego Police Department.”
On other topics:
- With a third of his 6,000 inmates on psychotropic drugs and needing mental health care, he advised the women: “If you got any kids, grandkids out there, tell them to go to medical school and become a shrink.”
- Local crime is at 35-year lows, but he’s frustrated that local media don’t reflect that. “We always laugh about it — ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ The first 20 minutes [of local TV news] generally is some horrendous crime in San Diego or somewhere around the country. Leads to the mentality that crime is everywhere, and it’s not.”
- Despite problems in other police agencies, “relations between the communities we serve [and the Sheriff’s Department] have never been better. But in the digital age we live in, and all the [contrary posts on] social media, it’s difficult to get that word out.”
- “Some of my 2,600 deputies are going to make [excessive force] mistakes,” he said, but with the Sheriff’s Department having 500,000 contacts with the public every year, “put it in perspective…. Don’t judge 900,000 cops (in America) or 8,000 cops in San Diego County by something done by one officer or deputy.”
And in a brief interview with Times of San Diego, Gore joined the call for Alabama’s Roy Moore to step down as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate.
“From the interviews I’ve seen with the witnesses, his equivocating responses, I find the victims very compelling,” Gore said. “Plus I have a problem with his past record of being removed from the (Alabama) Supreme Court on two occasions.”
The 47-year law enforcement veteran also said he has not issued or received a request to debate his lone rival — sheriff’s Cmdr. Dave Myers — ahead of the June 2018 primary.
“It would be problematic” to debate his Democratic Party-endorsed employee, he said. “It’s like [fighting] with one armed tied behind my back because of all the laws … [limiting expression of] my opinion of why he shouldn’t be sheriff.”
Contacted via Facebook, Myers campaign manager Johnathan Parker said: “Tentatively, we’d like to issue a debate challenge in late February for an event that would (hypothetically) take place shortly before the first ballots go out by mail.”
Parker elaborated: “When I say ‘hypothetically,’ I say it because I know Gore’s never going to accept the challenge.”
And Myers issued a statement: “I’d be very interested to hear Gore’s explanation of why it’s ‘problematic.’ I think that’s an excuse and he knows it’s not in his best interest to debate.
“His administration can continue to circle the drain for the next 200 or so days without debating me,” he said.
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