A look at the numbers might give the impression foothill communities are crawling with armed residents, ready for an Old West shootout at the drop of a hat.
Not so, said Mariposa County Sheriff Brian Muller.
Although statistics show rural, foothill counties issue more concealed weapons permits per capita than their urban counterparts, Muller said people don't abuse them.
"The people we're issuing them to are responsible," he said. "They realize that it's a privilege, and if that's abused and taken advantage of, that license will be taken away."
Mariposa ranks fourth in the state, with 203 permits per 10,000 people. Tuolumne County is eighth with 141 per 10,000 and Calaveras County is 11th with 124 per 10,000.
Stanislaus County, by comparison, issues 12 permits per 10,000 people, ranking 39th out of 58 counties.
Muller said his policy is straightforward. If an applicant meets the legal requirements to carry a concealed weapon, and "we feel the person's of good moral character and they can give us good cause," the application will be approved.
Muller pointed out that residents of Mariposa and other foothill counties have reason for concern, with land to protect and dangers in public lands they might frequent.
"My feeling, especially being a rural community, is that people have concerns in regards to self-protection," he said. He said numerous marijuana plantations have been found in state and national parks. "A lot of our residents spend time hiking into these different areas."
Muller said he thinks for the most part, people treat gun rights with respect.
"I feel extremely fortunate, we don't have people ... brandishing those weapons or firing those weapons in a manner that would not be appropriate," he said. "That would potentially threaten the rights of an individual to have a concealed weapons permit. If the legislators see an abuse on a broad scale, they would move forward with great restrictions on them."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.