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Interest in concealed pistol licenses rising in Pierce County

A line forms Monday outside the doors of South Sound 911 offices on Tacoma Avenue. People started lining up almost an hour before the agency opened. State concealed pistol licenses are issued for the lion’s share of Pierce County residents from the offices. Officials say they’ve seen a recent increase in applications for the permits and do not expect that trend to slow.
A line forms Monday outside the doors of South Sound 911 offices on Tacoma Avenue. People started lining up almost an hour before the agency opened. State concealed pistol licenses are issued for the lion’s share of Pierce County residents from the offices. Officials say they’ve seen a recent increase in applications for the permits and do not expect that trend to slow. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Randy Johnson drove to downtown Tacoma early on a rainy Monday recently to apply for a concealed pistol license.

It was the truck driver’s second trip to the South Sound 911 offices on Tacoma Avenue South in a week’s time. He turned back after his first visit to the public safety agency when he learned the wait would be more than an hour.

He wasn’t taking any chances the second time, getting to the office at 7:30 a.m., an hour before the doors opened.

His motivation?

“Just the way things are these days,” said Johnson, who was waiting on the sidewalk with more than a dozen others. “Standing in line here, we could get shot at. You can’t count on the government to protect you. You have to protect yourself.”

Johnson is not alone in that thinking, according to local and state records.

We’re not anticipating a slowdown. It’s picking up.

Russell Barber, manager of the concealed pistol license program for South Sound 911

A surge in applications for concealed pistol licenses in Pierce County and elsewhere in Washington have followed the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, local and state records show.

Russell Barber manages the concealed-pistol license program for South Sound 911, which issues the lion’s share of such licenses in Pierce County.

Barber said his office processed 130 applications one day recently, beating the previous record of 117.

Black Friday sales, the anticipation of guns as Christmas gifts and the spate of recent high-profile shootings have led to an increased interest in concealed pistol permits, Barber said.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm,” he said. “We’re not anticipating a slowdown. It’s picking up.”

The increases locally mirror those in other parts of the nation, according to news reports.

The New York Times, citing national background-check data, reported this month that gun sales in the U.S. over the past 15 years were at their second-highest level in November, with 1.2 million guns sold.

Only January 2013 saw a higher level of gun sales, with 2 million sold, according to the New York Times article. That month followed President Barack Obama’s re-election and the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

1,338 The number of concealed pistol license applications filed with South Sound 911 in November, up 24 percent from the same month last year

Dave Workman writes about gun laws and firearms policy for the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, an organization that lobbies for gun rights.

Workman said he’s seen a “steady increase” in interest for concealed pistol licenses nationwide.

“I think what ignited it was the Paris terrorist attack, and what poured gasoline on it was San Bernardino,” he said. “That frightens people. It concerns them and rightfully so.”

State and local numbers certainly back that up.

There were 1,338 applications for concealed pistol licenses filed in November at South Sound 911. That’s a nearly 24 percent bump over the same month last year, when 1,083 applications were processed.

Numbers from the state Department of Licensing showed that on Dec. 18, nearly 502,918 Washingtonians carried an active concealed pistol license. Last year on the same day, 475,890 people had licenses.

Ralph Fascitelli is board president of Washington CeaseFire, a group that lobbies for reducing gun violence.

He said it’s predictable that there would be an uptick in interest in concealed pistol permits and gun sales.

“This always happens after a high-profile shooting, and we’ve had a series of them recently,” he said.

The fact that Obama is about to start his last year in office and might be willing to take executive action on gun control also is motivating people to seek concealed pistol licenses, Fascitelli said.

He lamented that getting a concealed pistol license in Washington is easier than in many other states. His group advocates that those seeking them at least should have to undergo safety training.

South Sound 911’s Barber said his staff has been able to handle the recent surge in interest but that wait times have been long and the approval process is often taking the full 30 days allowed by law.

He urged those who’ve applied to be patient. People can check on the status of their application by emailing the six-digit license number and six-digit receipt number to CPL@southsound911.org.

“When they call, it slows us down,” Barber said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

Want one?

Information about obtaining or renewing a Washington concealed pistol license can be obtained on the South Sound 911 website: southsound911.org.

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