The number of violent crimes in Washington over the two years from 2019-2021 spiked alarmingly upward, offering one solid explanation for the upward trend in active concealed pistol licenses, along with the revelation by Seattle television station KIRO that the Evergreen State “has the fewest police officers per capita in the country.”
According to the annual report on Crime in Washington from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), last year saw 325 homicides, up considerably from the 201 reported in 2019. The numbers exceed data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2019-2020, which show 194 murders in 2019 and 298 killings in 2020. FBI data for 2021 will not be available until late September.
The violent crime rate has gone up from 3.4 per 1,000 population in 2019 and 2020, to 3.8 per 1,000 population in 2021.
Perhaps just as eye-opening is the data on the number of arrests for violent crime offenses. In 2019, according to WASPC data, there were 9,428 arrests, which dropped to 9,371 in 2020 and last year had declined again to 9,072 arrests for violent crimes.
It should be no wonder, then, that Washington’s number of active concealed pistol licenses has hit a record level. As reported three weeks ago, the state Department of Licensing said there were 655,709 active CPLs, up more than 29,000 from June 2021. Back in 2020, the decline due to COVID-19 shutdowns had begun and there were 644,345 CPLs in circulation. Going back to June 2019, the Department of Licensing reported 622,211 active licenses. Roughly 20-22 percent of all active licenses are held by women.
An updated report on CPLs will be available from the department on Aug. 1.
Washington has one of the strongest right-to-bear-arms state constitutional provisions in the nation. Article 1, Section 24 of the state constitution reads, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
It was adopted on Nov. 11, 1889, the day Washington achieved statehood.
Twenty-three years later, on Feb. 14, 1912 when Arizona became a state, the same language—with the exception of a couple of commas—was included in that state’s constitution.
Arizona no longer requires a license to carry concealed, although the state still issues them, while Washington has had a concealed carry licensing law in place since the mid-1930s. Washington is also a “shall issue” state where law enforcement officials do not have the discretion to deny someone’s CPL application if they pass a background check and are otherwise qualified to own a firearm.