City Council, police chief served with lawsuits
By Malia Spencer/Senior Staff Writer
Each member of the Santa Maria City Council, along with Police Chief Danny Macagni, was served Tuesday night with a federal lawsuit filed by a resident who claims his civil rights were violated when he was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
As the council members assembled for their meeting, private investigator Preston Guillory, on behalf of Santa Maria resident Kurt McCloud, served them with the suit that was filed Sept. 11 in U.S District Court. The package included a 50-page complaint plus hundreds of pages of exhibits.
McCloud claims the council members and Macagni have intentionally denied his constitutional rights to equal treatment by treating McCloud's application to carry a concealed weapon differently than those who have been granted such permits. According to the suit, that is a violation of McCloud's 14th Amendment rights.
City Attorney Gil Trujillo said the city intends to defend Macagni and his actions, and noted that California law provides police chiefs with the responsibility and the discretion when issuing concealed-weapons permits.
Guillory, a licensed private investigator based in Riverside, bills himself as an expert in helping Californians obtain concealed-weapons permits in a state that has a subjective permitting process.
On his Web site, www.clueseau.com, Guillory says he is permitted to carry a concealed weapon in 29 states, and has a team of lawyers and volunteers committed to helping people with concealed-weapons permit application processes.
None of the council members kept a copy of the suit, and instead left them with Trujillo.
Since the suit was filed in district court in Los Angeles, Trujillo said, the city will have to hire outside counsel in Los Angeles to handle the case.
To carry a concealed weapon in California, a person must receive a permit from a local law enforcement agency.
According to the California Penal Code, a chief of police or a county sheriff can issue a concealed-weapons permit “upon proof the person applying is of good moral character, that good cause exists for the issuance and the person applying is a resident of that city and has completed a course of training ...”
In his 2006 application McCloud, 42, states he is employed as a nuclear security officer and armed responder for the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County.
Because he lives in Santa Maria, McCloud requested a permit from Macagni to carry a .40-caliber Glock handgun since his job, and the knowledge he has of the nuclear power plant, could put him or his family at risk.
“I know that being able to defend myself against those who would use this information against our community would be an advantage,” McCloud wrote in his application. “As a Delta unit I am well-trained in the use of firearms, levels of force, and justifiable homicide. I take my job seriously in protection [of] our community, and I will not abuse the privilege of a CCW license.”
Macagni denied McCloud's application in August 2006 letter, saying there was “not enough convincing evidence of a clear and present danger to life or great bodily harm which cannot be adequately dealt with by existing law enforcement resources.”
Since California is known as a “may issue” state, the chief or sheriff has discretion over who can receive a permit, and also have liability and can be named in any future lawsuits, Macagni said Monday prior to being served with the suit.
Normally, an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, Macagni said he would grant more concealed weapons permits if the state removed liability from the issuing chief or sheriff.
“I feel strongly about people and their personal protection,” he said, but added that the liability to the city trumps his “pro-Second Amendment” beliefs.
If California was a “shall issue” state, the discretion, and liability, would be removed and anyone who is a qualified applicant would be issued a permit, he said.
“Frankly, the people I have issued (permits) to are well-known,” Macagni said, adding they are people he has known for years and “I feel comfortable that they won't go out and get themselves in trouble.
“The system subjects me to personal liability; if it didn't I would probably be more liberal with it,” he added.
Macagni estimated he has issued about eight permits to people who have shown just cause to carry weapons. In addition to the standard application, people could be subjected to physical or psychological evaluations.
The number of permit requests from Santa Maria residents varies from year to year, Macagni said. Some years there are no applicants, and others can see about a dozen people seeking permits.
In Santa Barbara County, Sheriff Bill Brown has come under fire for the limited number of permits he has issued.
During the first five months of his term, Brown issued 10 concealed-weapons permits and denied 10 others. Current numbers were not available from the sheriff's office by press time.
As of May, there were about 160 active concealed-weapons permits in the county, and the majority were issued to law enforcement and judicial officers.
In a previous interview, Brown said he doesn't believe communities are made safer with large numbers of people carrying weapons.
In order to receive a permit from the sheriff, people must show good reason other than “I want to protect myself,” Brown has said in the past.
In Lompoc, Chief Timothy Dabney hasn't issued a single permit since he took office in January, said Sgt. Deann Clement, department spokeswoman.
She noted that to get a one-year concealed-weapons permit in Lompoc, people must fill out the application, have a physical exam, submit fingerprints for a background check, and show a need for the permit.
Malia Spencer can be reached at 739-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 19, 2007