Mid-Columbia police see steep increase in concealed pistol license applications

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 2, 2013 

So many applications for licenses to carry a concealed handgun have come into the Kennewick Police Department that officials say they are at risk of missing the 30-day deadline for issuing them.

Tri-City law enforcement agencies have seen a drastic increase in the applications since November, causing workloads and wait times to climb.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has issued more concealed pistol licenses in three months than it normally does in a year, said Civil Lt. Ronelle Nelson. The sheriff's office issued 135 during the first four weeks of January and 119 in November and December.

The licenses that once took a week now are taking the full 30 days allowed by law, she said.

"It's been taking a lot of extra time," she said.

Local law enforcement agencies issue the concealed pistol licenses for the state, said Mike Blatman, Kennewick police's crime prevention specialist.

Getting a concealed license involves an application, a background check and fingerprints.

Those who have had their gun rights revoked because of a crime -- such as a felony, domestic violence assault or three DUIs, or who have mental health issues and have been institutionalized or been found incompetent to manage their own affairs -- will not be approved for the license.

The licenses cost $52.50, and expire after five years. Renewals cost $32. The law enforcement agency issuing the license gets to keep $18 of the fee and $14 of a renewal.

That doesn't cover the staff time it takes to issue the licenses, Blatman said.

"It's an unfunded mandate," he said.

Tammy Davenport, administrative assistant for West Richland police, said she is working overtime to try to keep up. They have processed 106 applications since Dec. 1. It's normally closer to 18 to 20 each month.

The Benton County Sheriff's Office received 45 applications for concealed pistol licenses in one day alone, said Lt. Chuck Jones. The office has issued 317 licenses in the first four weeks of January, compared with 1,452 for all of last year.

"We've been inundated," Jones said. "We are backlogged."

The Richland Police Department's concealed pistol license applications are up 5 to 1, along with background checks for gun purchases, said Capt. Mike Cobb. About 200 licenses were processed in January.

Pasco already has issued about 135 licenses during most of January, said police Capt. Jim Raymond. Last year, the department approved 703 concealed pistol licenses, up from 432 the year before.

Kennewick police issued 125 licenses during most of January. That's about 69 percent more than January 2012.

December was up to 136 licenses, about 70 percent more than the same month the year before, Blatman said.

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