The FBI reported June National Instant Background Check System (NICS) set a new record with more than 3.9 million checks initiated, suggesting heavy gun buying across the country, but in Washington State there is a problem blamed on the COVID-19 outbreak: Law enforcement agencies are not accepting new applications for concealed pistol licenses.
For the past three months, the total number of CPLs has declined by more than 6,000 active licenses. Agencies are continuing to renew CPLs, but it is the new gun owner and/or the veteran owner who wants to carry a firearm for personal protection that is being denied that opportunity.
One sheriff’s deputy told a would-be applicant to open carry, which is legal and constitutionally-protected in the Evergreen State, according to a message posted on social media.
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Steve Strahan, executive director of the Washington State Sheriffs and Police Chief’s Association, told CFL that agencies are trying to serve the public, but with the sluggish, phased-in recovery in Washington State, those agencies are concerned about the health of their employees.
The problem is with the state law, not to mention the state constitution. There is no provision in either that allows for a suspension of rights due to a viral outbreak.
Under state statute regarding CPL applications, Paragraph 1 says this:
“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)
To complete the application, fingerprinting is required.
Washington State’s right-to-bear-arms constitutional provision says this:
“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.”
While the latter section tends to undermine the “security” group formed to protect the now-defunct “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP)” zone—which was cleared out by more than 100 police officers Wednesday morning—the right shall not be impaired. So, open carry may be the only means for personal defense outside the home for those unable to apply for a CPL, but the drawback is that sidearms may not be carried loaded inside a moving vehicle without a concealed carry license, apparently on the premise that a gun not openly visible is concealed.
According to the state Department of Licensing, as of July 1, there were 644,345 active CPLs in the state. That’s a drop of 6,058 licenses since April 1, when the agency reported 650,403 active CPLs. M
The Second Amendment Foundation, headquartered in Bellevue, has received inquiries from several gun owners about this problem over the past three months.
Some counties that have restored their application process require appointments, along with certain protocols such as masking and hand-washing. Residents of those counties seem okay with that.
But in the state’s most populous county—King, where there were 102,170 active CPLs on July 1, down from the 104,202 posted April 1—the sheriff’s department is still not accepting new applications. Likewise, the Seattle Police Department is not accepting applications, according to its website.
Meanwhile, possibly thousands of Washington residents wanting to carry a defensive sidearm may have to open carry.
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