For the umpteenth month in a row, the number of active concealed pistol licenses in Washington State has gone upward, this time nearly 3,000 during October, and it appears to be part of a national trend leading up to next Tuesday’s presidential election.
The Washington Examiner reported yesterday that gun sales are spiking as Americans put off other expensive purchases. As the newspaper put it, “Americans are suspending major purchases of houses and cars until after the presidential election, choosing instead to lard up on guns instead.”
Anecdotal information from as far away as western Pennsylvania suggests a wide concern about the outcome of the election. If Hillary Rodham Clinton is victorious, many believe she will push hard for gun control, and appoint anti-gun judges to the federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, October ended with 560,450 active CPLs in circulation. September ended with 557,471 active CPLs.
Less than 300 belong to out-of-state residents, or residents of other countries. Roughly 20 percent are held by women. In King County, the state’s bluest county politically, more than 98,000 people are legally licensed to carry.
On Monday, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a White Paper on Access to Firearms in the state. It details some things he sees as troublesome regarding guns in the wrong hands, and offers suggestions that include more centralized background checking that some might see as a backdoor method of registration.
Ferguson made headlines several weeks ago when he announced intentions to push for a ban on so-called “assault weapons” in 2017. But is there really a problem in this state with rifles that might fall into this category?
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2015, of the 141 firearm-related homicides reported in 2015, only three involved rifles of any kind. Another five were confirmed to have been committed with shotguns. Forty-nine were committed with a gun that could not be identified.
The report might be misleading by omission in at least one spot. In describing the September shooting at Cascade Mall in Burlington, the White Paper states: “A court order prohibited the shooter from possessing firearms due to a history of assaults, domestic violence, suicide attempts, and drug overdoses. He used his father’s rifle and a 25-round magazine.”
Gun advocates could easily say this passage underscores a gun control failure. Initiative 594 didn’t prevent the suspect from getting a gun because he took it without permission, so he avoided a background check altogether. The rifle in question was not a so-called “assault rifle” but a .22-caliber rimfire; the kind of firearm that is owned by millions of citizens for recreation, small game hunting, some predator or varmint control and all sorts of other reasons.
Ferguson’s White Paper also perpetuates a misconception about firearms fatalities, lumping suicides in with homicides. He also notes that since 2012, there have been a total of five “mass shootings” in the state, including Cascade Mall.
“While these incidents are deeply disturbing, mass shootings are just a fraction of the state’s overall firearms deaths,” the White Paper says. “Between 2012 and 2014, an average of 665 people per year died in Washington from firearms injuries, according to DOH (Department of Health). Approximately 80 percent of the firearms deaths were suicides.”
Second Amendment activists have long argued that suicides are not violent criminal acts, and to put them together with homicides under an umbrella heading of “gun violence” is deliberately misleading. It creates the false impression that there is a rampant violent crime problem.
Earlier this year, with the full support of the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association, Washington legislators almost unanimously passed legislation aimed at suicide intervention. On the other hand, gun control proposals gathered dust rather than momentum.
Gun owners are wary of anything that smacks of gun registration. They have already seen how that ultimately leads to serious problems for law-abiding gun owners in New York, California and Massachusetts, for example.