Will an historic increase in concealed carry licenses influence WA Senate race?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Washington State isn’t alone in seeing a huge increase in the number of concealed carry licenses issued over the past few months, but many of the states that have seen significant jumps can attribute the rise to one simple factor: the demise of their “may issue” regimes that prevented most law-abiding citizens from ever obtaining a carry license.

Unlike states like Maryland, New York, California, and Hawaii (all of which have also seen a marked increase in concealed carry applications), Washington State has been “shall issue” for a number of years. Still, the most recent statistics released by the Washington Department of Licensing shows that more than 21,000 licenses were issued just last month, far eclipsing the previous record of 13,932 issued in May of 2013.

What’s driving so many Washingtonians to embrace their right to bear arms in self defense? Second Amendment Foundation founder and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms chairman Alan Gottlieb says the Democrats’ focus on defunding the police and other soft-on-crime measures has a lot to do with the growing number of armed citizens prepared to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“This is a staggering increase in the number of carry licenses,” said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, “and we wholeheartedly support every citizen who has made the important decision to take responsibility for his or her personal and family safety. This has happened despite repeated Draconian efforts by lawmakers to discourage private gun ownership. It should send a message to politicians and bureaucrats who support defund-the-police efforts and promote lenient policies toward repeat offenders who commit an inordinate number of crimes without serious consequences that the public is fed up.

“We just received crime estimates for 2021 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report,” he continued, “which indicate there were 300 homicides in Washington last year, up from the 295 reported for 2020. Among other things, the estimates confirm gun control initiatives in 2014 and 2018, plus Seattle’s gun violence tax have been unmitigated failures. Instead of reducing violent crime as promised, these measures have only penalized law-abiding citizens while criminals have ignored the laws, just as we predicted.

“At a time when liberal Evergreen State legislators are demonizing gun owners and trying to erode their rights, it will be interesting to see whether this stunning increase in concealed carry translates to activism at the polls Nov. 8,” Gottlieb observed. “It suggests people have had enough of the social policies which have resulted in rising violent crime, and maybe they’re ready to make a dramatic political shift.

There’s at least one sign that shift may indeed be underway. A late September poll from the Trafalgar Group found the race between incumbent U.S. Senator Patty Murphy and Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley to be neck-and-neck, with Smiley trailing the longtime lawmaker by just 2.2-points.

Per the poll, 48.7% indicated they would vote for Murray, with 46.5% voting for Smiley. Those who were undecided made up 4.8%.

poll by Trafalgar earlier in the month had Murray up by 2.9 percentage points. In that poll, Murray got 49.2% of the vote, Smiley got 46.3%, and 4.5% said they were undecided.

Now, it has to be noted that the Trafalgar results are outliers compared to other recent polling in the state, which has found Murray leading Smiley by anywhere from 9 to 12 points. However, Trafalgar’s had a very good track record in previous election cycles, and they’ve found this close result in not just one but two recent surveys, so I’m inclined to take their findings seriously.

It would be a wonderful thing if Washington State voters started to reverse the hard left turn the state has taken over the past couple of decades, and if that happens gun owners (including those who’ve decided to exercise their Second Amendment rights for the first time in recent years) should be at the forefront of that movement. If all 688,440 active concealed carry holders were to cast their vote for the politician that will protect their rights instead of criminalizing them, the state would be a very different place. We’ll never get 100% of gun owners to do so, of course, but Gottlieb is right to be optimistic about the political impact these new concealed carry holders could have; not only on Election Day itself but in terms of grassroots activism in support of pro-2A candidates during the final stretch of the current campaign season.