Cuts, coronavirus create concealed-carry license backlog

More than 2,000 people await permits as applications to the sheriff’s office have increased in June.

EVERETT — An estimated 2,300 people are awaiting a concealed pistol license from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office as coronavirus-related closures of local law enforcement agency lobbies, budget cuts and an uptick in permit applications have hampered the processing.

As the pandemic hit, in-person services across the county were shuttered, but the sheriff’s office continued to accept license applications online. Those requests have mounted because applicants must be fingerprinted before processing for a concealed-carry permit can begin.

“Some people may have been waiting since the pandemic began because they weren’t able to come in when we contacted them in early May so they had to reschedule for June or July,” Chris Leyda, staff service manager and supervisor of the Records, Civil and Public Disclosure Units, said in an email last week.

While license renewals have been delivered in accordance with state statues, the sheriff’s office has scheduled appointments since late May to work through the backlog of original applications, even opening its doors on a Saturday to get a head start.

Leyda said that because of cuts to the budget, hiring freezes and reduced overtime, the sheriff’s office has limited resources to handle the extra workload.

Guidelines revised last week may hasten the process as the sheriff’s office can now accept fingerprint cards rolled by private fingerprinting vendors. According to Leyda, the office notified waiting customers of that option and provided them with vendor resources.

“It’s difficult to know when the backlog will be cleared,” she said. “We are hoping with Phase 3 of the governor’s reopen plan that other law enforcement agencies within Snohomish County will begin accepting concealed pistol license applications as we have been from the start.”

The backlog hasn’t affected sales at Lynnwood Guns & Ammunition off Highway 99, where owner Tiffany Teasdale said customers sometimes wait two hours to get inside. She said a line has formed each morning two to three hours ahead of the store’s opening since February.

“We average between 10 and 30 people standing in line, waiting to get in the store all day, every day,” Teasdale said.

Customers haven’t mentioned the concealed pistol backlog in her store. Rather, Teasdale said, coronavirus fears, stimulus checks and riots and looting have created the run on guns.

As of June 22, Leyda said, the sheriff’s office received 1,784 concealed carry applications in the month, up from 1,079 in May and 991 in April. It’s a rise he credited to citizens having nowhere else to apply and an uptick “since the media has been reporting incidents of rioting and looting in our state.”

Leyda acknowledged that some citizens have voiced displeasure with the delay, and the closures that have slowed the process. She said the sheriff’s office will continue to be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for concealed pistol license applicants.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 425-339-3448; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

Ian Davis-Leonard reports on working class issues through Report for America, a national service program that places emerging journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. To support Ian’s work at The Daily Herald with a tax-deductible donation, go to https://www.heraldnet.com/support/.

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