Like many communities across the country, Washoe County, Nevada has seen a huge increase in demand for concealed carry licenses over the past year; and like several other jurisdictions, the county currently has a backlog of folks who want to apply for a license, but are being forced to twiddle their thumbs until an appointment becomes available.
In fact, the wait to even apply for a license is currently more than 12-months, but the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is vowing to work through the backlog by July 1st.
There are more than 4,000 appointments booked, and 72 percent of those are new applicants.
Starting this week, hours will be extended and appointment times will be reduced. These moves will allow for 78 more appointments per week. Sheriff Darin Balaam said the reasons for the backlog include previous office closures due to COVID-19, new software and an increase in new applicants.
I’m glad to hear of the changes, but why wasn’t this done earlier? It’s not like this is a new problem. In fact, the backlog has been growing steadily for more than a year. Office hours could have been extended last March, and if the Sheriff’s office had to shut down because of COVID-19, they could have started collecting applications outside, as some sheriffs in other states have done.
If Sheriff Balaam is serious about processing these applications in a timely manner, he might want to think about scrapping the appointments entirely and moving to a first-come, first-served system. That seems to have worked reasonably well for the sheriff in Mahoning County, Ohio.
Sheriff Jerry Greene said he started allowing walk-up applications last fall instead of requiring appointments.
“It seems we are getting a lot more done this way,” Greene said. “What people were doing is making appointments with us and then shopping around or making appointments at other places. Then, they would go to the quickest date.”
The change did bring about some long lines. In September, people were wrapped around the jail. Greene admits the pandemic hasn’t helped since applicants can’t wait inside the lobby.
Still, more than 3,700 permits were processed last year, nearly 1,100 just between July and September compared to much lower figures for Trumbull or Columbiana counties.
“I know not everybody is going to be happy with this,” Greene said.
And there have been complaints from some about having to stand outside for hours in the cold waiting in line, but Greene says changing back might be worse.
“Right now, other counties adjacent to ours is about the first or second week of June if you made an appointment right now,” Greene said.
With the various COVID restrictions that are still in place, there’s no perfect solution. Still, the goal should be to receive and process applications as quickly as possible. I’d rather stand in line for two or three hours to apply if it means I get my carry license in a month rather than twiddle my thumbs at home for a year or more just so I can have an appointment to drop off my application.
A right delayed is a right denied, and there’s simply no excuse (not even a pandemic) for forcing individuals to wait a year or more before they can exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense. If the current system isn’t working, then it needs to be changed; either voluntarily or through litigation. We’ve already seen several lawsuits filed around the country challenging the long delays in processing or receiving applications, and unless sheriffs are able to fix these issues on their own, I expect more legal action is on the way.