The discomfort many Washington State gun owners have with the existence of a state pistol registry could be amplified by a report that the state Department of Licensing (DOL) wants to hire a “private data-entry firm” to catch up on a backlog of records to be entered, according to an article in the Everett Herald on Sunday.
The story was picked up by the Seattle Times Monday.
No firm is named – presumably the task will call for bids – but gun owners like their privacy and many will likely be concerned about whether the data is secure.
The story noted that licensed firearms dealers in the state sold 67,739 handguns in 2006. That had more than doubled only six years later, when 2012 saw 170,792 sales, the newspaper reported. Strong sales appear to have continued over the past four years, in addition to a concurrent rise in the number of concealed pistol licenses, which the DOL also administers.
Whatever else the backlog indicates, it shows that Washington citizens are continuing to buy handguns and obtain CPLs, as the interest in personal protection has risen since the attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando. Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, according to DOL data, there was an increase of 57,107 CPLs, an average of 5,191 licenses per month.
If the pattern continues, by the end of this year there will be more than 570,000 active CPLs in the state.
Adding to the DOL’s responsibilities was the passage of Initiative 594 two years ago. This required not only background checks on all firearm transfers in the state; it also expanded the state’s pistol registry paperwork. All of that paper goes to the DOL.
According to the newspaper, DOL receives 240,000 records annually on firearm sales and licensing. Eighty-five percent of those are submitted on paper, the story noted.
Hiring a private data-entry firm “to catch up” may only provide a temporary solution to the problem. After the records are updated, DOL may still face a manpower problem and who is to say that the system won’t back up again?
The backlog of pistol transfers reportedly numbers more than 327,750, and this backlog was actually predicted by opponents of I-594 during the campaign two years ago. While gun rights advocates haven’t said “We told you so,” the newspaper story would seem to allow them that luxury.
Perhaps the bottom line here isn’t the DOL’s backlog, but the revelation that Evergreen State residents have been buying a lot of firearms.