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Washington’s ‘rush’ on guns bogs down Dept. of Licensing

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As yesterday’s Washington Times was reporting that “black Friday” gun sales were the sixth highest in history, on the heels of another report that National Instant Background Checks (NICS) had declined more than 14 percent from November 2012, the Washington Department of Licensing told this column that it is months behind on logging handgun transfers into the state’s pistol registry.

Yet gun sales are still up overall nationally, and there does not appear to be a decline on the horizon.

Figures provided to Examiner Tuesday show that, through November, DOL has received paperwork for 177,139 handgun transfers, exceeding all of 2012, when 170,792 pistol transfers were received.

The backup is so severe, confirmed DOL spokesperson Christine Anthony yesterday, that the agency is asking the Legislature for more than $400,000 in additional funding to hire seven part-time workers to log the paperwork. She said the transfer paperwork is backed up to March of this year.

In a telephone interview, Anthony told this column that DOL only has five full-time employees in the firearms section to enter all the paperwork and do all of the other tasks, including processing concealed pistol licenses (CPL). This year has seen a continued high demand for CPLs. Washington now has more than 447,000 active CPLs, up more than 54,300 new licenses since January.

Last month showed the fewest handgun transfers coming into the department of any month this year, at 7,216. That contrasts sharply with the 31,323 posted in January, just after the Sandy Hook tragedy sparked much talk about gun control. In February, after soon-to-be-former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s late January gun buyback fiasco, the number of transfers sent to the DOL dropped to 25,261, and in March it declined to 24,312.

But taken as a whole, gun buying is up in the Evergreen State, and one is compelled to wonder whether it may be at least partly due to the campaign by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility to put a gun control initiative before the Legislature next month in Olympia. Anytime there is talk about more gun control, firearms sales go up, which sort of defeats the purpose of the gun prohibition lobby. Initiative 594 runs more than 15 pages

The website “No Lawyers, Just Guns and Money” yesterday ran a chart showing a 14-year history of November gun sales back to 2000. Blogger John Richardson observed, “…gun sales as reflected in the adjusted-NICS checks are trending towards a new normal. They are coming off their post-Newtown peaks but are still at a much higher overall level than they were pre-Newtown. Firearms manufacturers are still trying to catch up with the demand and are working through their backlog of orders.”

DOL’s Anthony noted that in 2006, her agency received 67,739 transfer forms, the paperwork that commercial gun dealers send to Olympia whenever they sell a handgun. Translation: Evergreen State handgun sales have more than doubled in the past seven years, and there is paperwork on each of those commercial transactions. It’s the state form a handgun buyer fills out every time a pistol or revolver is sold by a gun dealer.

This information is entered into the state’s pistol registry, which a lot of gun owners did not realize even existed until earlier this year when Bellevue gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb tried to negotiate a background check bill that would have done away with it. That bill died when Gottlieb rather publicly withdrew his support after the section abolishing the registry was pulled.

In reaction, Gottlieb and others now are pushing Initiative 591, which prohibits government gun confiscation without due process and requires that background checks conducted in Washington comply with the uniform national standard. It has garnered more than 340,000 signatures. That initiative is sponsored by Protect Our Gun Rights.

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