Longer waits in county for concealed pistol licenses

EVERETT — If you’re planning to apply for a concealed pistol license at the Snohomish County courthouse, you might want to bring along a book to read.

Last fall, the average wait and processing time for “CPL” applicants at the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office was 15 minutes, said Brenda Gibbs, staff services manager.

Last week, the wait was up to an hour.

The number of applicants has mushroomed since mid-December, starting the first business day after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, according to data kept by the sheriff’s office.

Nationally, people have speculated that the push for gun control legislation is behind the increase in applications. Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick last week issued a statement saying the sheriff’s office plans to stay clear of controversy over proposed gun law changes.

Statewide, 394,286 people held active concealed pistol licenses as of Jan. 7, according to the Department of Licensing.

In most cases, sheriff’s staff have to process applications within 30 days, Gibbs said.

Staff are struggling to keep up with the new demand, she said. They’re having to turn away three or four people at the end of each day.

“We’re just doing the best we can,” she said.

On a recent weekday, people crowded the small fourth-floor lobby at the sheriff’s office headquarters, a few tapping their toes. The CPL applicants and those seeking CPL renewals waited alongside all the other folks who come to the sheriff’s office for one reason or another — including people required to show up to register as sex offenders.

Sheriff’s staff in recent weeks have created “stations” within the processing area to streamline the flow of applicants for CPLs, Gibbs said. Still, the line tends to bottleneck at the fingerprinting machine. Fingerprinting takes about five minutes per person.

The average application takes 15 minutes to process, Gibbs said.

“That’s four an hour,” she said. “That’s about as fast as we can go.”

Applicants are men and women, young and old, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said. Couples come in together. Parents bring in their grown children. Applicants must be 21 at the time they apply.

When someone applies, the sheriff’s office does an extensive, multi-step background check and a mental health check, Gibbs said. The FBI also is contacted.

Much of the process is protected by privacy laws. The names and addresses of people who seek or obtain CPLs are exempt from public disclosure under the state’s open records law.

Gun sales are up in the county, too, police data show. The laws are complicated, but licensed gun sellers here are required to send documentation to a police agency for every handgun sale.

In Snohomish County, the sheriff’s office receives most of those forms, though some go to city police departments.

The sheriff’s office counted 5,171 handgun sales in 2011. There were 12,523 reported sales in 2012.

Part of the uptick likely is due to the spring 2012 opening of Cabela’s sporting goods store on the Tulalip Reservation, Ireton said.

Other kinds of firearm sales are tracked at the federal level.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

More information

Concealed pistol license services vary by community and police agency in Snohomish County. Most people who live in the county apply at the sheriff’s office headquarters on the fourth floor of the county courthouse, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. You can also find information about CPL laws at www.dol.wa.gov/business/firearms.

In most cases, you can print out the forms at home and fill them out there to lessen your wait time. For fingerprinting, it’s best not to use lotion or other ointments on your hands that day.

CONCEALED PISTOL LICENSE APPLICATIONS
2011 2012
January 510 549
February 513 747
March 605 781
April 567 753
May 486 681
June 437 691
July 464 623
August 475 681
September 501 602
October 544 688
November 505 737
December 674 1,274
Total 6,281 8,807
Source: Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office

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