Washington’s alarming COVID side effect: Citizens can’t get CPLS

Washington’s concealed carry numbers have been dwindling for almost nine months, an apparent side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. (Dave Workman)

There’s an alarming side effect of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Washington State that may be having a serious impact on public safety, and nobody is talking about it, even as Seattle reports almost double the number of homicides it posted in all of 2019.

Many law enforcement agencies have closed down or limited acceptance of new concealed pistol license applications, and even renewals are sometimes tough to get, depending upon the agency. The Seattle Police Department, for example, has closed its police headquarters front counter services and precinct facilities to the public. This has been a problem since March, when the first shutdown—which was only supposed to last for two weeks—was initiated. It has now been almost nine months, a period during which many law enforcement agencies appear to have been in direct violation of state statute.

Since April 1, when the state Department of Licensing reported a whopping 650,403 active CPLs, the numbers have been steadily dwindling. Prior to that, the monthly counts had been climbing by 1,000 to 2,000 new CPLs.

As of Dec. 1, the CPL active count had plummeted to 633,896, a drop of more than 16,000 active carry licenses. This happened during a period when more people were buying guns, first due to the COVID panic when many feared police services would decline, to the summer when cities including Seattle erupted in violent protests that left small businesses trashed and looted.

During November alone, the decline in active CPLs was 2,507. While that figure may delight the Seattle-based and billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobby, it’s leaving many Washingtonians with no other option than to open carry or carry their defensive sidearms illegally.

Nobody has brought a lawsuit against any police agency so far, but how much longer this will be tolerated is up for speculation.

Here’s what the state statute says:

“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.)

There is no provision in statute that allows a police agency to “suspend” taking CPL applications, no matter what the emergency.

Washington may vote “blue” only because of the high number of Democrat voters in a handful of counties, but the state primarily remains “red” outside the Puget Sound area and away from the I-5 corridor. One in 10 eligible adults in Washington is licensed to carry.

By no small coincidence, Washington is the headquarters state for the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

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