A report at TheGunMag.com detailing the rise in concealed carry in Washington State says the state is poised to hit, and maybe even surpass, the 700,000 mark by the end of February, if the current rising pattern continues.
It surprises some observers that the Evergreen State, considered politically “blue” because of its penchant for electing far left Democrats, also boasts one of the highest percentages of active concealed pistol licenses for the population.
How the state got here—and possibly why—is an interesting study in the impacts of crime, efforts to defund the police and what the Second Amendment community says is proof of the abject failure of extremist gun control schemes that penalize law-abiding citizens while doing nothing to rein in an increasingly violent criminal element.
According to data from the state Department of Licensing, there are now 698,186 active CPLs in circulation, all but a handful issued to people who are out of the country or in the military. By a rough count, somewhere between 25 and 28 percent appear to be held by women, which is on par with other states that provide a gender breakdown as part of their data.
At the end of November 2022, the number of active CPLs was 698,196, but on Jan. 3, the figure had declined to 696,438, a decline of 1,748 licenses, which is hardly a blip considering the overall number and how it has climbed over the years.
Going back to the end of 2014, Washington had 478,460 active licenses in circulation. That was the year Evergreen State voters passed the first of two restrictive gun control measures, Initiative 594, which mandated so-called “universal background checks.” This measure was promoted as a way to reduce so-called “gun violence” in the state where, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2014, there were 172 murders of which 94 involved firearms.
By Dec. 31, 2015, Department of Licensing shows there were 509,578 active CPLs, an increase of 31,118 licenses for the year. It was in the summer of that year Seattle’s left-tilting city council hastily approved a “gun violence tax” on the sale of firearms and ammunition in the city. Revenue projections from the proponents estimated the city would rake in between $300,000 and $500,000, which would be used to finance gun violence reduction efforts. The FBI Uniform Crime Report for that year shows there were 209 murders in Washington, of which 141 involved firearms. Seattle police date for the year showed there were 26 homicides in the city that year.
On Jan. 3, 2017, the Department of Licensing reported what essentially were year-end CPL figures for 2016, showing the number had risen again, to 571,476 active licenses during the previous 12 months. In 2016, the number of Washington homicides declined to 195, including 127 committed with firearms. In Seattle, there were a paltry 19 slayings, suggesting to gun control proponents the gun/ammunition tax was working, along with the background check law. But as Gen. George Patton once observed, “all glory is fleeting.”
By the end of 2017, two years into the Seattle gun tax and three years into I-594, it was evident Washington residents were not convinced they were safer. Licensing department data on Jan. 2, 2018 shows there were 590,749 active CPLs. Over the course of three years, the state had added 112,289 CPLs. The FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2017 showed Washington reported 228 murders, of which 134 involved guns, including 27 murders in Seattle, according to Seattle police data retained by TheGunMag.com (TGM).
During 2018, there was a modest increase of Washington CPLs, according to the state data. On Dec. 31, 2018, the state reported 608,460 active licenses, a gain of 17,711 over the year-end data for 2017. FBI crime date for the year listed 232 murders, including 138 involving firearms. Seattle police data shows there were 32 slayings in the city that year, up significantly from 2016, the first full year of the city’s gun tax. As with any city, not all murders involve guns, but they do get media attention, which in turn gets public attention.
It is also important to note that in November 2018, voters passed gun control initiative 1639, which places severe restrictions on the sale and possession of so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles.” It banned the sale of semi-autos to young adults, drawing a federal lawsuit from the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association. Considerable support for the initiative was based on a single incident in Mukilteo, in which a then-19-year-old legally purchased a semi-auto Ruger rifle and used it to murder three other teens at a party.
That law ignores the fact that rifles of any kind are used in a fraction of all murders in Washington and across the country. FBI data shows that more people are killed in any given year with knives or blunt trauma than with rifles. Long guns are rarely used in suicides.
Yet, the gun prohibition lobby has zeroed in on modern semiautomatic rifles, demonizing them as “weapons of war.” There is now legislation under consideration in Olympia, where the Legislature is presently convened, to ban the future sale, manufacture and importation of such rifles.
On Dec. 31, 2019, Washington state reported 646,344 active CPLs, a significant bump of 37,884 licenses for the year. During 2019, FBI crime data shows homicides actually dropped to 194 for the state, including 135 committed with guns. The year saw 36 murders in Seattle, four full years into the gun tax project, which never came close to achieving the projected revenue figures.
In 2016, TGM sent a Public Records Act request to the city, asking for the aggregate first-quarter revenue figure collected under the gun tax. When the city repeatedly declined to provide the data, the Second Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit—the foundation owns and publishes TGM—in King County Superior Court. In July 2017, TGM won the lawsuit, requiring the city to release its revenues.
In 2016, Seattle collected $103,766, an embarrassing shortfall from the projections. The following year, revenue dropped to $93,220 and in 2018, the city collected only $77,518. In 2019, revenue crept up to $85,352 and in 2020—the year which saw Seattle plagued by urban violence in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis, and the outbreak of COVID-19—revenues spiked to $184,836. In 2021, the city raked in $165,416. Data for 2022 has been requested but is not yet available, according to the city.
Meanwhile, in 2020, the number of CPLs dropped substantially due to police and sheriff’s departments “suspending” the acceptance of license applications during the pandemic panic. There is no provision in state law that allows this, but nobody challenged the shutdown in court.
On Jan. 4, 2021, the Department of Licensing reported the CPL total had dropped to 628,287, during a year which saw Seattle’s turmoil translate to 53 homicides and the state’s overall body count rising to an estimated 298, including 177 murders involving guns. This data, however, might be questionable because the FBI began using a different reporting platform for its annual crime report that year.
On Jan. 3, 2022, the license numbers were rebounding as things opened back up, showing a rise of more than 11,000 CPLs, bringing the total to 639,298.
And the total so far this year shows the recovery to be in full swing. The Feb. 1, 2022 figure was 638,451, translating to a jump of 59,735 more licenses over the course of the last 12 months.
The 2022 homicide for Washington is not available. The FBI report isn’t expected until late September or early October. Last year in Seattle, there were 57 homicides, according to the Seattle Homicides Twitter account, which is not connected with the Seattle Police Department. There is no small irony in the fact that Seattle is the headquarters for the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a billionaire-backed gun prohibition group.
Police manpower in Seattle has declined by hundreds of officers. According to the CPL data, there are 111,224 active licenses in King County, which encompasses Seattle. More than 24,700 are held by women, and more than 86,300 are held by men.