The Washington State Department of Licensing has reported that more than a half-million concealed pistol licenses are now in circulation, just as a national debate over concealed carry has been rekindled in the wake of a fatal shooting in Chicago of an alleged armed robber by a legally-armed private citizen.
The Evergreen State’s concealed carry law dates back to 1935, and it is one of the oldest on the books. Historically, Washington has been among the top states where concealed carry is the law. Open carry without a permit or license is also legal.
What makes this significant is the rekindled debate about concealed carry following the fatal Halloween shooting of an alleged armed robber in Chicago by a private citizen who has a carry permit and Firearms Owners Identification Card. While there is a published report that the gun he was using was a fake, a police investigation appears to have cleared the armed citizen. The case is now up to the state’s attorney to decide.
The new Washington State CPL numbers may raise some eyebrows in the liberal enclave of Seattle. King County, which includes that city, has the largest number of CPLs anywhere in the state, 92,190 of which roughly 20 percent are in the hands of women. That rough average is fairly consistent around the state.
Gun prohibitionists decry such large numbers of armed citizens, yet homicides involving firearms are down, according to FBI crime data.
The Chicago case is focusing attention on when, and under what circumstances, a private citizen may use lethal force in defense of himself or other persons. With millions of people now legally licensed to carry defensive sidearms, that question is almost certain to come up.
Eugene Volokh, who teaches at the UCLA School of Law, discussed this dilemma in the Washington Post. His analysis revolves around the Chicago shooting, but lays the general round rules for using lethal force in self-defense across the American landscape.
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