On March 23, 2020, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee issued the “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” proclamation ordering “all people in Washington State are immediately prohibited from leaving their home or place of residence except to conduct or participate in (1) essential activities, and/or (2) employment in providing essential business services.” As the COVID-19 state closures have been progressing, many people are making their first firearm purchase and current firearm owners have been purchasing extra ammunition with concerns about their safety if law enforcement agencies become overwhelmed. Despite this concern, gun stores and shooting ranges were not included in the Washington State list of essential businesses. This has led to debate in Washington over whether the stores and ranges have to close. There are similar debates in states all over the country.
The Response in the US
In response to the confusion, the US Department of Homeland Security added into it’s list of essential workers “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges." On March 27, 2020, Senator Lynda Wilson from Washington’s 17th Legislative District delivered letters to Governor Inslee from state lawmakers and law-enforcement leaders explaining why access to firearms and ammunition should be explicitly added as an essential service. The letters state that access is essential to supporting law-enforcement agencies and security services along with Washington residents who want to protect their families and property. As for now, it appears that gun stores and shooting ranges are still NOT on the list of essential businesses that are allowed to operate under the Stay Home – Stay Healthy order that has been extended until May 4, 2020. Additionally, Governor Inslee has said that business licenses of non-essential businesses that do not comply by continuing to operate may be revoked.
Concealed Pistol Licenses and Firearm Restoration
Another issue with the “Stay Home – Stay Safe” order and related orders from the Washington Supreme Court and local cities and counties in Washington, is that concealed pistol licenses and petitions for firearm restoration have halted. Many local police agencies, including the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which process concealed pistol licenses, have closed their doors to the public meaning they are no longer open to process concealed pistol licenses and for those applying to conduct necessary fingerprinting. The Washington Supreme Court has ordered courts statewide to halt non-essential court hearings and to conduct necessary hearings by telephone. This means that during the shutdown, the state courts are not available to process petitions for firearm restoration. There will be a backlog of both concealed pistol license applications with law enforcement and petitions for firearm restoration with the courts once the state re-opens.
The status for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office can be found here.
If you are a Snohomish County resident you may be able to RENEW your concealed pistol license online. It appears that you may not be able to obtain an original new concealed pistol license during the stay at home order due to the inability to be fingerprinted by the Sheriff.
Similarly, King County is not processing new concealed pistol licenses due to the shut-down. It appears they will process renewals, however.
If you need to restore your firearm rights, it is important to beat the rush for when the Courts reopen. Contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Lance Fryrear, who are working remotely during the shut-down, with any questions about your firearm rights.