Waitlist for new CPL stretches over six months; renewal times readily available
CLARK COUNTY — Amid the many turbulent events of 2020, a massive surge in new gun owners across the nation has led to significant ammunition shortages, overwhelmed gun stores and backlogs in many permitting processes.
According to Small Arms Analytics, gun sales in Aug. 2020 alone surpassed gun sales for all of 2019.
Add to the list the Concealed Pistol License (CPL) process here in Clark County. To apply for a permit to carry a handgun on your person in a manner not visible to the public, you must complete a Washington State application and take it to your local law enforcement agency.
If you live in a city, you take it to your police department, or you can take it to your county’s sheriff’s office. If you live in unincorporated county areas, your only option is the sheriff’s office.
“We shut down the front desk operations for a while and did not take new concealed license applications due to COVID,” said Sgt. Brent Waddell with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). “Since then, of course, we’ve come up with policies and procedures to safely address that. So there’s just a huge amount of work, and they just don’t have the staffing to get it done immediately. That’s why they’ve gone to scheduling it out.”
In addition to CPLs, the office also processes gun transfer permits. On average, they complete 50 to 70 per day, currently.
In the month of July last year, 593 CPL permits were issued by CCSO, and 1,800 gun sales were processed. In November, 677 permits and 1,699 gun sales. In the first two weeks of Jan. 2021, the agency has already processed close to 300 CPLs.
Residents who apply for a CPL have to make an appointment with the office and schedule a time to submit their application, give their fingerprints and initiate background checks. If you scheduled an appointment in November, the next available appointment was in July.
“There’s a lot that goes into it because you’re not only run through the National Crime database, you’re run through our local system,” Waddell said. “They make sure you’re not a convicted felon, don’t have a domestic violence conviction, don’t have a restraining order against you, no mental health orders, things like that, which takes time in itself.”
In recent months, many residents have called CCSO under the assumption that the process was instant, if not rapid, and become frustrated with the opposite being the case. This is often due to many rumors and myths surrounding CPLs, specifically in the state of Washington.
One of the most common is that it is easier and legal to go to another county or city-based agency than the one you live under and obtain a CPL. This is false. All CPL holders must apply and be processed by the agency with jurisdiction in of their home address to be issued a CPL.
Another common myth is that the process is free and never required a wait-time. This also, is false. In Clark County, it costs close to $50 for a new license, and even at the best of times, there is usually two weeks of wait-time.
“It’s not going to be an overnight process. There has to be patience,” Waddell said. “It’s not only something that is mandated by statute, it’s something that our Sheriff and our organization takes very seriously. We want to make sure to get it right, and so with that, there’s a whole lot of check marks that have to be done whether the weapons permit is granted or denied.”
The renewal and replacement processes are not affected by the current backlog. The cost for these is lower, and walk-ins are acceptable.
When it comes to comparing other agencies in the area, many are working to meet the demand along with CCSO. Battle Ground, for example, recently revamped their system with more of the process now online. In Vancouver, there is currently a two week wait-time for an appointment.
CCSO is currently working hard to complete all current applications, and hopes to be back down to a 20-30 day wait-time by the summer, Waddell said. With only a handful of employees working on the process, the task of moving through thousands of applications will be slow but consistent, he said.
For more information on CPL applications for CCSO, visit the devoted page online. Requirements for CPLs in the state of Washington can be found at dol.wa.gov. For cities in Clark County, visit your police department’s website and look for a tab with CPL listed.