The latest figures on active concealed pistol licenses in Washington State reflect a curious—and for gun rights advocates, possibly alarming—decline in the number of people licensed to carry, during a period when gun sales climbed dramatically.
Writing for the National Review, David Harsanyi notes, “The United States is still in the midst of the greatest gun-buying binge in its history.”
Things are not likely to change soon, with ardently anti-gun Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats in control on Capitol Hill. Says Harsanyi, “as long as Democrats keep talking about gun confiscation and regulations, expect the trend to continue.”
According to data from the Washington Department of Licensing, the Evergreen State lost more than 30,000 active CPLs since April 1, 2020, when there were just over 650,000 licenses in circulation. As of Monday, that number had declined to 619,398, which is still an impressive number in a “blue” state. The decline is not due to lack of interest. As acknowledged by the King County Sheriff’s Department, “Please be aware that there is a tremendous number of individuals wanting to get their CPLs. We are limiting how many daily appointments we can schedule at all locations at this time. When we are able to process appointments more quickly, while continuing to maintain COVID safety precautions, we will be making adjustments to the number of appointments we can do per day.”
Privately, a couple of firearms instructors have suggested at least part of the problem has been the inability of people to submit CPL applications to local law enforcement agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. They may have a point. In Arizona—where permits are no longer required, and where the state constitutional right to bear arms provision is identical to Washington’s, the number of permits has actually climbed more than 20,000 since September. As of last Sept. 20, there were 369,369 active carry licenses in Arizona. As of April 12, there were 392,015, according to data from the Department of Public Safety.
Now with processes apparently opening back up in Washington, the decline might turn around.
— Mark Oliva (@MarkOlivaTweets) May 5, 2021
Another factor in the CPL decline may be the exodus of Washington residents to Idaho, Montana or elsewhere with lower taxes and friendlier gun laws. With Democrats in charge in Olympia, and wealthy Seattle-centric elitists having funded extremist gun control initiatives, taxes and the cost of living have shot upward while state gun rights have been eroded.
It has taken a while, but law enforcement agencies evidently have concluded they could not continue refusing to accept CPL applications, as there is nothing in state law that allows it. That much is spelled out clearly in the first paragraph of the statute: “The issuing authority shall not refuse to accept completed applications for concealed pistol licenses during regular business hours.”
There is something else, as noted by NSSF’s Oliva. Politicians evidently are paying close attention to the gun sales data. Over the past year, at least 8 million first-time gun owners have joined the ranks of armed citizens, and they do not fit the perceived traditional demographic. A large percentage are minorities, and another significant group are women.
Record gun sales started when the COVID-19 pandemic and shut downs were announced early last year. Oliva said March 2020 was the beginning of record buying, and concerns over potential loss of services caused people to accept more responsibility for their own safety.
Couple that with urban violence in reaction to the George Floyd case in Minneapolis, and gun sales continued strong.
Now with Biden and Democrats talking about gun control, people are still buying firearms.
“The rhetoric from the White House and Democrats in Congress is driving gun sales,” Oliva said via telephone. “Every time Biden says ‘gun control,’ a cash register rings.”
If that doesn’t send a message to Democrats in Olympia and Washington, D.C., they may be inviting trouble.