Seattle’s KOMO News is reporting how state lawmakers and lawmen have called upon Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to recognize gun shops as “essential” businesses—a story Liberty Park Press broke back on March 31—but there is another pressing issue sheriffs and police departments must address, according to gun rights activists: Taking applications for concealed pistol licenses.
As Liberty Park first reported earlier this week, the number of active CPLs in the state has actually declined in the past month. There is no doubt that the drop is because sheriff’s departments and police agencies have suspended fingerprinting for private citizens, which is required to complete a CL application. This suspension appears to be in direct violation of state statute, which reads:
“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 that’s exactly what it appears they are doing, in some cases by closing their offices to the public while the pandemic shut-down continues.
Here’s what the Island County Sheriff’s Department website says:
“Beginning Tuesday March 24, 2020, ICSO offices will be closed to the public until further notice. This includes fingerprinting services and the processing of Concealed Weapons Permits…”
Down in King County—where the state Department of Licensing reported this week there are 104,202 active CPLs but a month ago there were 104,344—there’s a message on that agency’s website that says this:
“Until further notice, in an abundance of caution our in-person lobby hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. We are unable to provide fingerprinting services at this time. We are unable to process NEW concealed Pistol License applications at this time.”
Agencies appear to be processing CPL renewals, but for now, new applications are unavailable because of the fingerprint requirement.
There is no small irony in this. The pandemic has not overlooked law enforcement. Many officers and deputies have contracted the virus. Thousands of police are on the sick list from New York to Puget Sound. People know this and are not unsympathetic. However, they also want to protect themselves in an emergency, especially if away from home.
This is happening as jails are reportedly releasing prisoners to escape coronavirus infection in confinement, and anti-gun groups including the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility, are demanding that gun stores be closed as “non-essential.”
As many news agencies are reporting, there has been a spike in gun sales across the country, and many if not most of those involved first-time gun buyers who fall back on the Second Amendment as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms on Thursday issued a statement, welcoming new gun owners to the firearms community, while reminding them they’ve just experienced a taste of gun control. In some states, first-time shoppers discovered they couldn’t just buy a gun and walk out the door, contrary to the impressions they’ve gotten from gun prohibition lobbying groups.
Those surprised citizens, who may have previously voted for gun control politicians and supported anti-gun-rights measures, discovered background checks and waiting periods, and many of them are not happy. In some places, they learned people can’t buy guns until they first obtain a permit to purchase. Suddenly, a lot of people have realized that gun control applies to them, too.
The Second Amendment, we are constantly reminded, protects the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Article 1, Section 24 of Washington’s constitution protects the “right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state…”
Washington is an “open carry” state, but the more than 650,000 citizens who have obtained CPLs evidently prefer to keep their guns out of sight. Honest citizens who want to carry a firearm for their personal and family safety are thus forced to carry by circumstances beyond their control “until further notice.” And now Gov. Inslee has extended the statewide “Stay Home, Stay Alive” mandate through May 4.
When the Second Amendment Foundation—CCRKBA’s sister organization—recently criticized anti-gun lobbyists for demanding gun stores be closed, SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb offered a pertinent observation: “Constitutional rights are not subject to a public health crisis.”
While Washington agencies aren’t literally suspending the Constitution by not accepting new CPL applications, they may be setting the stage for some awkward moments.