Law enforcement officials across the county are reporting a dramatic increase in the number of people applying for permits to carry a concealed handgun in public.
The Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office, and the Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano Police Departments have all reported sharp upticks in the number of permits they have processed this month. In the first five business days of this year, the Montesano Police Department has received five applications for permits to carry a concealed pistol. By comparison, the department processed 16 permits for the entire month of December 2012.
The numbers for the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office are more telling. They received 36 applications in the first five days. The trend continues daily with the department receiving an average of eight applications every day. The previous month, they processed a total of 125 applications.
Undersheriff David Pimentel, said that in the past few weeks, demand for concealed pistol licenses has “exploded.”
“There’s not enough hours in the day to keep up with it,” he said.
The reasons why people are filing so many applications are complex, chief law enforcement officers said, but they specifically cite the spate of mass shootings in the past few years, combined with a perception that there is an impending tide of new gun control laws coming has led many to apply for the permits. Pimentel said the increase is part of a larger national trend. Capt. John Green of the Aberdeen Police Department agreed, saying, “It mirrors what is being reported nationally.”
Not only has there been an increase of applications from this past month compared to now, there has also been, according to figures released by local departments, an overall increase of people applying for the permits year over year for the past three years. In Aberdeen, 204 people applied for the permits in 2012, up from 147 applications in 2010. The numbers for the Sheriff’s Office once again are more definitive. During the same time, the number of applications almost doubled for them. Nine hundred four people applied for permits in 2012 as compared to 502 in 2010.
For the public, submitting the permit application is as easy as waiting till the applicant is 21, filling out a form, getting finger prints taken and shelling out $52.50. For the administration workers, the story is a little different. They have to check to see if the applicant has a criminal history that includes any felonies, any incidents of domestic violence or any active criminal charges or restraining orders. They also need to check to see if there have been any incidents of the person being committed for psychological reasons. Also, a dishonorable discharge from the Armed Forces disqualifies someone from getting a concealed pistol license. The processing time for an application usually takes less than 30 days for a state resident, 60 days for an out of state resident. If approved, it is good for five years.
Bill Mayne, a professional marksmanship instructor and competitive pistol shooter who lives outside Hoquiam, said the increase in applications doesn’t surprise him. He sees it as part of a reaction to the mass shootings that have taken place nationally.
“I think there is an awareness that there are dangerous people out there,” Mayne said.
Mayne has been permitted to carry a concealed weapon for more than 30 years. He approaches carrying a firearm with great gravity and said that most people who have permits to carry concealed weapons never do. The day-to-day reality of carrying a loaded firearm discourages many from carrying, even if they have a permit.
Mayne also sees the increased demand as an “irrational” response to “weapons politics.” Mayne clarified that what he meant by irrational is that any talk of new gun control laws are in the very preliminary stages and pistols as a type of weapon are not usually up for discussion as something to be banned.
“That’s part of the confusion because there is all this talk and shooters don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.