It’s taken as a matter of faith that, for the most part, you see a lot more guns in red states than blue ones. After all, blue states tend to have heavy restrictions on guns, which means fewer people are going to bother getting one while red states don’t.
Plus, frankly, if you have more gun owners, you’re not quite as likely to have people vote for gun control proponents.
But it seems that Washington state is a notable exception.
Blue state. Progressive state. Left Coast liberal state.
Washington’s got its reputation — earned more than ever the past few years, as voters here keep trending bluer.
But you can add this jarring one to the list: Heavily-armed state.
“The way people here vote, you’d think they want to have nothing to do with guns. That couldn’t be further from the reality,” says Dave Workman, editor of a gun rights publication out of Bellevue called TheGunMag.com.
This past year, the number of concealed gun licenses awarded in Washington state soared by more than 57,000, to about 700,000, according to data from the state Department of Licensing.
It means that just shy of 12% of all the adults in Washington state are packing (or at least are licensed to do so). This rate is 11th highest in the nation, according to a national roundup of gun data, behind mostly red states.
It’s part of an arming up that began more than a decade ago. In 2008, there were fewer than 175,000 officially packing. By 2012 it was 350,000, and now it has doubled again.
So what gives?
After all, Washington state has become bluer by the year. It’s part of how the state has managed to pass so much gun control in recent years.
But why are guns still such a large part of life in Washington in light of that fact?
First, we need to look at where so many of the new Democrat voters are coming from. Many are people who want to leave California’s Silicon Valley and the high taxes, but still want to work in technology, which tends to be in and around Seattle.
So, they’re getting an influx of blue-state voters, but they’re settling where there are already a lot of blue-state voters.
Meanwhile, the gun-loving red counties are still there, still buying and shooting guns.
What’s more, they’re buying more guns in part as a reaction to the state leaning more and more leftward.
Then you’ve had the double-whammy of COVID-19 and uncertainty during that followed by a surge in violent crime. As a result, a lot of people who ordinarily might not get a gun are arming up, even while they support measures that make it harder for others to do the same thing.
Gun owners tend to become gun voters, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
So yeah, Washington state can roll blue while people buy more and more guns. It’s not nearly the oxymoron you might believe it to be.
But it also suggests that this leftward lean, at least on the subject of guns, might also be shortlived.