Following a 13-month decline in the number of active concealed pistol licenses in Washington State—between April 1, 2020 when the number peaked at 650,403 and May 3, 2021, when the decline bottomed out at 619,398—the curve began shooting upward again at a healthy pace.
The blame might be squarely placed on law enforcement agencies that “suspended” their acceptance of new applications because they require personal contact between applicants and department staff for fingerprinting. Those “temporary suspensions” dragged on for months in some cases, despite no provision in state law to allow such a move. When departments once again began processing new applications, there was something of a rush. By November 2021, the number of active CPLs had spiked to 643,317, an average of nearly 4,000 CPLs per month. But then the numbers began declining again in December.
On Tuesday, the number of active CPLs had receded back to 636,920, a drop of nearly 6,400 active licenses.
Using social media, Liberty Park posted the same inquiry on a half-dozen different sites, asking those who hadn’t renewed their CPLs for a reason. The results were somewhat startling, and it says more about the state of politics in Washington than anything else. From dozens of responses, one significant reason emerged: Many gun owners say they have moved out of the state. Some of the discussions may be found here, here and/or here.
One man moved to Arizona to enjoy “constitutional carry,” where no permit is necessary. Others moved to Texas, Montana, Kentucky and other gun-friendlier states. Where Washington was once considered among the better states for firearms owners—the Evergreen State was a pioneer of “shall issue” concealed carry and state preemption laws, and traditionally was in the Top Ten among states with active carry licenses—it is now considered a hotbed of anti-gun extremism, pushed by a billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying group based in Seattle that has literally bought two elections in 2014 and 2018 in which voters okayed extremist gun control measures. Opponents of both measures were simply out-spent, and could not get their messages out. Some gun owners have privately said they didn’t vote for various reasons.
As Liberty Park has previously reported, neither of those gun laws has reduced, as initially promised, so-called “gun violence.” Data from the annual FBI Uniform Crime Reports and Seattle and other law enforcement agencies shows a pattern of rising violent crime. In 2015, according to FBI data, Washington reported 209 homicides. The number dipped in 2016, but started rising again the following year. In 2020, the most recent year for which FBI data is available, Washington recorded 297 murders, of which 143 involved firearms.
Likewise, a special “gun violence tax” hastily adopted by the Seattle City Council in 2015, ostensibly to raise money for intervention programs to reduce “gun violence” has never lived up to revenue predictions or crime reduction. Homicides in Seattle have climbed significantly since the tax collection began in 2016.
Others responding to the admittedly unscientific survey said they hadn’t renewed for a variety of reasons, including a couple of people intimating they carry without a CPL. Some had forgotten to renew, and a few said the process had been turned cumbersome by individual agencies and they didn’t have time to deal with it. One man said he didn’t renew because it is no longer possible in Washington for a CPL holder to take same-day delivery of a handgun, due to what apparently is a quirk in state law that does not conform to requirements of the FBI’s National Instant Check System. This probably could be fixed with a housekeeping amendment to existing law, but because Democrats hold the legislative majority, such an effort might not advance.
However, other respondents said they had no problems renewing and seemed satisfied with the process. Presently, roughly one of every nine adults in the state is licensed to carry.