Police said recent mass shootings, and a superheated presidential election campaign, contributed to a rise in handgun-license requests to local law enforcement agencies.
The incidents, especially a July 20 shooting at a Colorado movie theater, fueled gun sales and concealed-pistol license applications throughout King County. The figures spiked immediately after the incident, but police said the numbers should remain elevated at least through the November presidential election.
The shooting at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., left 12 people dead and another 58 injured.
Other mass shootings dominated headlines in recent months.
In a Wisconsin shooting, a gunman killed six people during a ceremony at a Milwaukee-area Sikh temple Aug. 5 and then died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Before the Aurora incident, a gunman held Seattle on edge for hours May 30, after shooting four patrons to death at Café Racer in the University District and a woman during a downtown Seattle carjacking. The gunman later died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound as police approached.
Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said the number of applications the sheriff’s office receives typically rises just before a presidential election, and after a major incident, such as the Aurora shooting. Though the agency did not have any specific data about the link between the shooting and the rise in applications, she said the trend appears to have affected recent applications.
Issaquah Police Chief Paul Ayers said the Aurora shooting did not cause a dramatic spike in gun sales in the city, but said the trend shaped by election-year politics and mass shootings is in effect.
“We’re just a microcosm” of King County, he said.
The long-term local uptick in gun sales started in 2008, before voters elected Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress perceived — correctly or incorrectly — as more receptive to gun-control measures.
“It really hasn’t dropped off,” Ayers said. “You have your election four years ago, and you’d think you’d have a drop-off, but it really kept steady and started to climb and then this year, knowing an election is coming again, it still goes up.”
The only retail firearms seller in Issaquah is West Coast Armory along Northwest Gilman Boulevard. Some businesses selling firearms online also operate in the city.
“In just talking to gun shops, people are saying, ‘If it’s a popular gun, we can’t keep it on the shelf,’” Ayers said.
The recent mass shootings prompted a separate debate about firearms in Issaquah.
Michael Marinos, a longtime Issaquah resident, applied for a city permit to open a home-based firearms transfer business in the Olde Town neighborhood. Neighbors protested the proposal, and the urged the city to deny the permit application.
Marinos said the incidents, especially the Aurora shootout, almost certainly swayed public opinion against the proposal.
The permit application remains under consideration by the Development Services Department.