Despite having an anti-gun Democrat governor and attorney general, and a Democrat-controlled Legislature, Washington State appears to be roaring back in terms of licensed concealed carry, as the number of active concealed pistol licenses has spiked for the fourth straight month.
Blame the COVID-19 pandemic panic of 2020 and early 2021 for the problem, as many law enforcement agencies “suspended” accepting new CPL applications for many months. There is no provision in state law that allowed this, as those agencies blamed the coronavirus for acting in the interest of employee safety, to not process new applications. Fingerprinting is required for new applications, and that’s a hands-on process.
On April 1, 2020, the state Department of Licensing reported more than 650,000 active CPLs. The shutdown brought a steady decline that continued for 11 months. But when the state “re-opened” for basic services, the turnaround began in earnest. This past April 1, the decline bottomed at 619,398, a loss of just over 31,000 active licenses, but that month, more than 4,900 CPLs were added back to the rolls.
And the licensing agency reported Tuesday there are now 636,441 active CPLs, a resurgence of more than 17,000 over the past four months, averaging 4,260 per month. In August, the state saw 4,983 CPLs added over the number reported last month at this time, which was 631,458.
At this rate, Washington could be fully recovered from the COVID concealed carry decline by the end of the year, and possibly be a well beyond that 650,000 mark. That should be bad news for the Seattle-based and billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a gun prohibition lobbying group.
What makes this so significant is that the Evergreen State has been labeled as “blue” politically because of its tilt toward voting for Democrats for national office. The state has gone to Democrats for the presidency for several years. The state’s two U.S. senators are Democrats—Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell—and the majority of its Congressional delegation are also Democrats.
And Democrats are considered the “party of gun control” if not outright gun confiscation.
But the state, with an overall population of more than 7 million, has the highest number of active resident CPLs of any state in the West (excluding Texas), even surpassing Utah, which had 727,290 active carry licenses as of June 30, but the majority (429,985) were for non-residents. Only 297,305 permits were held by Beehive State residents. The Utah permit is popular among armed citizens because it is recognized by so many states.
In Washington, roughly 20-22 percent of the CPLs are held by women, underscoring the strong interest among women for personal protection. Washington’s CPL is valid for five years.
There appears to be keen interest in gun ownership and concealed carry in the state, possibly due to reductions in police numbers amid efforts to defund police agencies. The past 18 months have seen a surge in gun sales, many to first-time buyers.