A federal lawsuit filed Oct. 19 against Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff and Riverside County over handgun carry license policies and practices, which plaintiffs claim are unconstitutional, is “purely a political ploy,” Sniff told Uken Report on Thursday.

“(It’s) not just based on the bizarre timing, but these extremist gun groups in (this) recent legal action have been longtime documented supporters of my opponent, dating clear back to the 2014 election,” Sniff said. “They demand that gun permits be handed out like popcorn and they have found a candidate (Lt. Chad Bianco) that supports that same extreme posture.”

Bianco’s spokesman, Andre Levesque, declined to comment for this story.

What should interest everyone is that the individual at the center of this legal action, taken just weeks before the Nov. 6 election, is himself a friend of the Bianco campaign team – another odd “coincidence” that underscores that this action is purely political, Sniff said.

“It is gratifying that the more moderate gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and The California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) immediately saw through this sham legal action,” Sniff said. “But it also points to the too-extreme view that my opponent has on firearms, a view certainly not representative of our County’s residents.”

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney George M. Lee of San Francisco litigation firm Seiler Epstein Ziegler & Applegate LLP. The lawsuit is backed by The Calguns Foundation (CGF), Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), Firearms Policy Foundation (FPF), and Madison Society Foundation (MSF), also institutional plaintiffs in the case, whose Riverside County residents are affected.

The person at the epicenter of the action is plaintiff Arie van Nieuwenhuyzen. He purchased a handgun allegedly for self-defense and asked the Riverside County Sherriff’s Department how he could apply for a “CCW” license to carry it in public. The Sheriff’s Department told him that, because he was a legal U.S. resident and not a U.S. citizen, he could not apply for a license under the Sheriff Department’s handgun policies and practices. The plaintiffs claim that is unconstitutional.

In the complaint, Lee wrote that van Nieuwenhuyzen has been a legal resident of the United States, living in Riverside, and since 1983, “has raised an American family, owned a successful business, been involved in his community, serves as a member of his church and Sunday school teacher, and has obeyed all laws and customs of his adopted country and state.”

The alleged victim/plaintiff is part of the Bianco campaign as evidenced by this screenshot.

Lawsuit

Those intimately familiar with the groups suing Sniff and the County describe them as “radical gun groups created by Brandon Combs, a longtime foe of Sniff and who is also a longtime supporter of Chad Bianco, including vocally in 2014.

Sniff is an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and was before becoming sheriff in 2007. He has solid re-election support from the National Rifle Association, California Rifle & Pistol Association and Gun Owners of California. These advocacy groups are normally at odds with the more extreme gun groups that are supporting Bianco.

History shows that Sniff has long maintained what he has termed a “fair and reasonably policy” on the issuing carrying concealed weapons (CCWs) for Riverside County residents, but repeatedly has said that not everyone will be granted the ability the carry a loaded concealed firearm in the public areas of Riverside County communities.

lawsuit “My posture has long been that we support the issuance of CCWs, but we also believe that it to be sound public policy that we ‘carefully screen’ all individuals applying to carry on their person a hidden, loaded handgun in our public areas,” Sniff told Uken Report. “There is a big difference between having a ‘right’ to own and possess a firearm, and the legal ‘privilege’ in California to carry a loaded, concealed handgun on our streets, in our movie theaters, going to the market, and at public events.”

Sniff said he fully supports issuance of CCWs pursuant to state law. Most law-abiding citizens will qualify after careful screening, but some will not for a variety of reasons, and they will not be issued CCWs.

“We certainly aren’t going to hand gun permits out on the street corners with wild abandon — that is neither reasonable nor good sense,” Sniff said. “Our applicant process is both fair and reasonable, and the more moderate gun rights groups support that posture.”

A copy of the complaint for van Nieuwenhuyzen v. Sniff can be viewed here.