U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- EXCLUSIVE: After steadily losing ground for more than a year due to COVID-19 shutdowns of basic counter services by law enforcement agencies, Washington state sheriffs’ and police departments are evidently back in the concealed pistol license groove, reversing the decline and adding nearly 5,000 active CPLs during the month of May.
One former law enforcement official who requested anonymity told AmmoLand News “A ton of that is catch-up.” It is still a promising sign in the eyes of gun rights activists who know there has been a demand for CPLs that was not being met.
Back on April 1, 2020 the state Department of Licensing reported 650,403 active CPLs, a significant milestone since the Evergreen State is considered to be politically “blue.” It is the smallest state in the West, yet it is second only to Utah in the number of concealed carry licenses, and has been for several years. Texas is not part of this equation.
What happened? The coronavirus pandemic panic prompted local police and county sheriffs’ departments to “suspend” the CPL application process because it requires taking fingerprints, a one-on-one situation that agencies said would put their staff at risk.
There is nothing in state statute that allows this, especially when it continues for several months. State law is quite clear:
“(1) The chief of police of a municipality or the sheriff of a county shall within thirty days after the filing of an application of any person, issue a license to such person to carry a pistol concealed on his or her person within this state for five years from date of issue, for the purposes of protection or while engaged in business, sport, or while traveling. However, if the applicant does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or Washington state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, the issuing authority shall have up to sixty days after the filing of the application to issue a license. The issuing authority shall not refuse to accept completed applications for concealed pistol licenses during regular business hours.” (Emphasis added.)
By December, the state had lost more than 16,000 active CPLs, and it wasn’t because people didn’t want them. By the end of April, the decline was more than 30,000—down to 619,398 active licenses—yet during this same period, people were buying firearms, many for the first time. Like the rest of the country, Washington state saw gun sales climb actively throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2020. Initially, it was a reaction to the pandemic and fears of loss of services. That was replaced beginning in late May with the George Floyd protests and riots, demands by far left activists to defund and dismantle police departments and—at least in the Seattle area—the takeover of six blocks in the Jet City by protesters who called their seized ground the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) Zone. The area became a neighborhood of anarchy. Two people were murdered. There were assaults and other crimes, and police abandoned their East Precinct offices for nearly a month. The city under liberal Mayor Jenny Durkan, who is not running for a second term, became a national embarrassment.
People essentially fell back on the Second Amendment, arming themselves and taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of family and home. Still, they could not apply for a CPL, although those whose licenses expired could renew because that process does not require new fingerprints.
Things in Washington state under Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee started loosening up earlier this spring. Virtually all law enforcement agencies figured out ways to comply with the law and accept new applications, said one source.
On June 1, the state licensing agency, which only keeps the data and does not issue CPLs, reported a whopping 4,936 active license turnaround during the month of May. If that pattern continues through the remaining seven months of this year, the state should be back at prior-COVID levels.
Why should that happen?
One contributing factor might be reports that the Seattle Police Department has lost nearly 250 officers over the past several months, according to the Associated Press. Seattle is in King County, which always has the most active CPLs in circulation because it is the state’s most populous county. Neighboring Pierce and Snohomish counties also have high concentrations of CPLs.
Washington has had a concealed carry statute since 1935, and it is also an open carry state. The concealed carry law has been revised and updated over the decades, but thanks to the state constitutional right-to-bear-arms provision, state lawmakers have not tried to repeal it.
Unfortunately for right-to-carry advocates, so long as Democrats retain majorities in both houses of the Legislature, and voters continue putting Democrats in the Governor’s Office, the state will not likely join other states in adopting permitless carry legislation. Washington is a “shall issue” state, which means issuing agencies have very little discretion in the matter. If a citizen clears the background check, a sheriff or police chief may not arbitrarily deny the CPL.
The striking CPL turnaround during the past month shows that has not changed. The next few months could provide some interesting data.
About Dave Workman