Police: Mass shooting causes increase in Tri-City gun permits

Darlene Agnew of Kennewick has her fingerprints taken in January 2013 by Kennewick Police Department technician George Bowen. The procedure is required for all concealed-pistol license applicants.
Darlene Agnew of Kennewick has her fingerprints taken in January 2013 by Kennewick Police Department technician George Bowen. The procedure is required for all concealed-pistol license applicants. Tri-City Herald

Tri-City police departments have seen a spike in the number of applications for concealed pistol licenses since the most recent mass shooting in San Bernardino earlier this month.

The demand for permits has been so high that the Kennewick Police Department will now fingerprint applicants two days a week instead of just one.

The department usually only fingerprints for licenses on Fridays, but it will now also be open for fingerprinting the next two Thursdays — Dec. 10 and Dec. 17. In order to be apply for licenses, citizens are fingerprinted and their criminal backgrounds are checked.

Kennewick police have historically seen the number of license applications increase whenever there is a mass shooting or terrorist attack, said Sgt. Ken Lattin, police spokesman.

The Dec. 2 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., which claimed the lives of 14 people and injured another 21, was no exception.

On Dec. 4, as details of the attacks spread, 38 people applied for licenses from Kennewick police, Lattin said. In comparison, the department has issued 63 permits on average per month in 2015.

“Any mass shootings or mass (incidents) we see a big spike,” Lattin said. “In (San Bernardino) in particular, everybody can imagine themselves at a work holiday party this time of year. People are starting to realize when it comes to terrorist activities it can happen anywhere and (terrorists) are going to look for soft targets.”

Pasco police and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office also reported a recent increase in the number of applications submitted since the shooting, with Pasco receiving at least 30 new applications.

In Spokane, the increase in applicants caused police to stop fingerprinting Monday afternoon to get through a line of people that had formed before the end of the day, the Spokesman-Review newspaper reported.

Richland police have seen a slight increase, about 15 to 21, in the average of applications each week since October, said Capt. Mike Cobb. The increase has held steady through the high-profile attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.

Cobb told the Herald there hasn’t been a surge in applications for concealed weapons this month, but officials have noticed through records that more people are buying guns.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has accepted 10 applications since Dec. 2, which isn’t unusual for the department this time of year, said Sheriff Jim Raymond.

Raymond, who signed off on permits while working for decades at the Pasco Police Department, says mass shootings and other major violent incidents can push citizens towards wanting to carry guns.

“I think there are a lot of people out there on the bubble about whether they want a concealed weapons (license) or not,” he said. “When these types of events take place, it prompts them to come in and complete it.”

With mass shootings happening frequently in the United States, police officials expect to continue to see citizens lining up to get permission to carry guns.

Pasco has already seen an increase of nearly 200 permits, from 422 to 605, issued in 2015 compared to 2104, officials said. Kennewick saw about 200 less permits issued in 2014 versus 2013.

Tri-City police officials say people need to practice responsibility and safety when carrying, while acknowledging it’s a constitutional right to bear arms.

Police departments do not offer firearm training, though officials encourage gun owners to seek out private training and safety courses.

“It’s a responsibility to carry a firearm. A lot of things have to go through your mind,” Lattin said. “It’s more than just carrying a gun, you have to know what you are going to do with it. At the end of the day, its purposes are to take a life and save a life.”

Tyler Richardson: 509-582-1556, @Ty_richardson