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Could pandemic, riots be affecting gun sales in Snohomish County?

It looks as though the major news events of 2020 may be having an effect on gun sales in Snohomish County.

In recent months, dramatically increased numbers of people have been applying to be concealed pistol carriers throughout the county.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office normally sees, on average, about 285 Concealed Pistol License applications per month. The county received 900 in April and just under 1,100 in May. June saw more than April and May combined — nearly 2,600 applications.

Courtney O’Keefe, communications director for the sheriff’s office, said this could have to do with the fact that other jurisdictions are not currently processing CPLs due to the pandemic, as the need for fingerprints requires an in-person visit.

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However, she also noted that it could be tied to current events.

“We did definitely see a rise with COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order being in place — however, it’s impossible for us to really link the numbers for sure,” O’Keefe said. “We also saw an uptick in CPL applications in the month of June, with media reporting on incidents of rioting and looting in our state. We can’t say for sure that the two are linked, but we did see a large spike in June when a lot of that was being reported.”

Firearm transfers — the forms completed and submitted by gun dealers after a sale — also skyrocketed. The county saw 1,700, 1,700, and 2,500 transfers per month for April through June, respectively, when 328 is average.

West Coast Armory North co-owner John Holschen sees evidence of this in his Everett gun store every day.

“What we see is that national events very much drive business sales,” he said. “And really, sales started going up at the time that COVID started being a thing.”

He said they normally do half their yearly sales by late July — but this year, they hit that number in May.

Like the county’s numbers, the increase was even steeper in the month of June.

“As the protests became prominent in the news, we saw another spike in gun sales,” Holschen said.

When talking with customers, Holschen heard more and more people express the desire to protect themselves. June was the same month that saw not only occasions of rioting, but also police in Washington’s biggest city temporarily leave a precinct.

“There are a lot of folks who have come in who have said that, for various reasons, law enforcement cannot always get where they need to be when they need to be there to protect people,” he said. “And they’re realizing that personal security is something they have to be responsible for individually — that’s driving a lot of gun sales.”

Those buying guns appear to be taking the time to learn how to use them. Holschen said that firearm training classes — which are smaller due to social distancing — are now filling up in under 24 hours.

“We see a lot of people coming in today who express that recent events have caused them to realize that they need to take responsibility for their personal security,” Holschen said.

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