By Pat Jenkins
More than 14,000 Pierce County residents wanted to legally arm themselves with handguns in 2012, and another 500-plus requested that authority in barely the first week of 2013.
The Law Enforcement Support Agency (LESA) processed 14,160 concealed pistol license (CPL) applications – an average of 1,180 per month – last year. That figure includes first-time applications and renewals.
The earliest statistics for 2013 have CPL requests on a pace to easily top last year’s total. As of Jan. 9, LESA had received 571 applications, according to spokeswoman Kris McNamara.
The numbers for 2012 and early this year don’t reflect the actual number of licenses being requested countywide. LESA only processes applications on behalf of certain jurisdictions within Pierce County. Towns and cities within the county can accept applications and issue permits, too. For instance, Eatonville granted 62 permits last year, according to its Police Department, which does the processing. Under state law, the town can only handle applications from town residents.
Starting in 2007 and continuing through last year, the number of licenses issued in Eatonville increased every year except one. The year-by-year totals were 23 in 2007, 29 in 2008, 27 in 2009 (the only year with a decrease), 34 in 2010 and 41 in 2011, followed by a 21-license jump to 62 in 2012.
“I believe that the partial reason for the increase is that a lot of residents were not aware that we issue permits,” said Gail Finley, administrative secretary for Eatonville Police. She added that staffing issues for the department have raised questions about whether it will continue to process applications.
LESA, now known as South Sound 9-1-1, the new emergency communications system approved by voters countywide in 2011, is the largest clearinghouse of concealed handgun permits in Pierce County. At its records office in downtown Tacoma, applicants must apply in person. For the mandatory background check,.all applicants, including those who are renewing or replacing permits they alreeady hold,.must give their fingerprints and show a valid photo I.D.
They pay fees of $52.50 for a new application, $42 for a late renewal, $32 for an on-time renewal and $10 for a replacement. Licenses that are expired by more than 90 days can’t be renwed. Their holders must submit a new application. An exception to that rule can be :made for military personnel who were deployed out of state when their licenses expired.
Applicants who are approved receive their licenses in the mail. Rejected applicants receive a letter explaining the reasons for the denial and the process for appealing.
It’s unknown which areas of Pierce County or types of areas – rural versus urban, for instance – might have the highest concentration of handgun permit holders. That information is confidential under state law.