You may not realize it when you pass by Selah’s quiet streets and its surrounding farms and orchards, but nearly one in five residents could be carrying a concealed weapon.
The Selah area has the highest rate of concealed carry permits in the state for areas its size or larger -- 18.2 percent -- according to data from the state Department of Licensing.
The rate for Tri-City area residents with concealed carry permits is lower, although still in the double digits for Richland, at 11.8 percent, and Kennewick, at 10.5 percent.
Kennewick has more residents with concealed carry permits, at 1,660 women and 5,238 men, according to the data. Richland has 1,043 women and 3,415 men who have permits to carry concealed weapons.
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In Pasco, about 8.5 percent of adults ages 21 has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. That includes 927 women and 3,211 men. Statewide, the number of people applying for these permits is increasing, especially among women, according to research by The Seattle Times.
Yakima County is no different, said Chief Civil Deputy Bob Udell with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.
“There are more women carrying firearms, or at least getting the permits,” Udell said. But he didn’t know if the trend was driven by women’s safety concerns or if women these days just had more interest in guns.
Udell said the sheriff’s office, which processes the permits in the county, saw a major spike in late 2008 and early 2009, around President Barack Obama’s first election.
“We saw another large spike with his re-election, so it’s obviously driven by politics,” Udell said.
As for why Selah would have the highest rate of permits per capita, Udell said he didn’t know what might be behind the trend.
“Selah is a low-crime area, so it must not be a fear of crime that’s driving that,” Udell said.
No one was available at the Selah Police Department to comment on the issue Friday.
Udell said there’s practically no impact on law enforcement from more citizens carrying permitted guns.
“When we have issues with firearms, it’s not with law-abiding citizens who’ve gone through the process to get a concealed pistol license,” Udell said.
But, he added that there are a few concerning cases involving applications from people with known gang affiliations, but no felony conviction to disqualify them for a concealed carry permits. In those rare cases, he says, state law requires the sheriff’s office to issue the permit, and officials just have to hope it’s not used in a crime.