After a year of steady decline in the number of active Concealed Pistol Licenses in Washington State, the Department of Licensing reported this week that May saw an increase of nearly 5,000 more CPLs than were reported in April, according to a report in AmmoLand News.
DOL data shows the number of active CPLs on June 1 at 624,334. Back on May 1, the number was 619,398, making the difference 4,936 licenses added back to the rolls. On April 1, 2020, the state agency reported 650,403 active CPLs, but that number began sliding for the next 13 months, primarily because law enforcement agencies “suspended” public services, including accepting new applications which require fingerprinting of each applicant.
There is no provision in state concealed carry law that allows the suspension of this service. Here’s what the statute says in the very first paragraph:
“(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.)
But things have loosened up and now issuing agencies—municipal police departments and county sheriff’s offices—are accepting new applications by appointment. People renewing their licenses could do so because this does not require fingerprinting, as fingerprints don’t change.
What the dramatic turnaround suggests is that thousands of people have been waiting to apply for a CPL. If this continues through the summer and into the fall, by year’s end Washington could be back at pre-COVID levels of legally-armed private citizens.
Last year and this year, gun sales nationwide have continued climbing, and the Evergreen State is no exception. The trend began with the COVID-19 shutdown and concerns about social troubles. It gained momentum in June after violent demonstrations and riots erupted in several cities, including Seattle, in reaction to the death of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis police.
In Seattle, protesters took over a six-block area of the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood last summer, calling it the “Capitol Hill Organized Protest” (CHOP) zone. That occupation lasted nearly a month, and included the police department’s abandonment of its East Precinct headquarters while the CHOP zone became a national embarrassment for the city and far left Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The CPL numbers deserve watching for the remaining seven months of this year. Should the monthly counts continue to climb at the May rate, by the end of the year the number of active licenses will exceed the peak number of April 1, 2020.
This is significant because Washington is considered a “blue” state politically, only because of the liberal voting patterns along the I-5 corridor and in particular Seattle and surrounding King County. Data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows month-by-month gun sales over the past 17 months in Washington. Sales in May actually declined, but prior months show healthy sales. Many people who bought guns in the past 12 months were first-timers who had never before owned a firearm.
With carry license applications back on the rise, it appears those people want to keep their guns close.