Seattle residents refuse to arm themselves

by: KIRO 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne Updated:


SEATTLE - For the past two years, Washington residents have been gobbling up concealed pistol licenses at an unprecedented pace.

In total, around 370,000 Washingtonians have the legal right to carry a handgun outside their home.

KIRO 7 Investigative Reporter Chris Halsne was able to obtain information about which neighborhoods are aggressively pursuing the right to conceal and carry and which areas are shunning the idea.

After receiving Halsne’s public records request, the Washington Department of Licensing released a database which shows how many citizens per zip code had a valid concealed pistol license or CPL as of June 2012.

MAP: Concealed weapon permits

Click on the image below for the full map

The CPL is more commonly referred to as a “concealed weapon permit” by most law enforcement agencies and the piece of paper only covers handguns (not concealed knives, swords, or other weapons).

After examining and analyzing the state data, KIRO 7 hired an expert to create an interactive map so our viewers could more easily visualize where handguns are concentrated – statewide.

Bright red on the KIRO 7 map indicates a high percentage of the population in that zip code has pistol licenses. As the color diminishes, it indicates fewer residents with CPLs.

There was nothing hotter on our map than Lyman. It’s a quiet town about 80 miles north of Seattle, tucked between Highway 20 and the Skagit River.

Residents are as nice and welcoming as you could imagine; yet, when you meet them, expect them to be armed.

KIRO 7 uncovered nearly half of Lyman residents have a concealed gun permit.

“Doesn’t surprise me a bit,” said a laughing Councilman Eddie Hills.

Hills said the high percentage of Lyman residents with firearms isn't a mystery.

“The sheriff is around here but sometimes they have to come from a long ways to come and help out,” Hills said.

According to him, that isn’t a complaint, rather a reality residents accept.

“People understand it might take a while for the sheriff to get to Lyman,” Hills insisted. 

Mayor Debbie Heinzman also runs the local tavern. She agrees that “everybody has guns” in Lyman to protect themselves and their property.

Not too long ago, someone set off the alarm at her bar by throwing a big rock through the window after hours. Heinzman called police from home and then, true to her community roots, she headed there with her husband and a handgun.

“I would think it’s more protection of our own. We know there’s not a huge police force out here, so I think a lot of people want to protect their stuff, themselves, their families,” Heinzman said.

When it comes to concealed gun licenses, the antithesis of Lyman is Seattle. While that might not be a surprise, the numbers are stark.

KIRO 7 Investigators calculated only 2.8 percent of Seattle residents, overall, have sought the right to carry.

In the six zip codes to the east of I-5 (the International District to Capitol Hill, to north of the UW) the number is even lower -- just 1.6 percent.

Despite a higher than normal number of random gun crimes in Seattle this year, computer data shows residents remain uninterested in arming themselves.

Alan Gottlieb is founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. He has his own theories on why Seattleites have so few guns.

“It is counterintuitive, but part of it is philosophical and ideological reasons. People who tend to live in the cities tend to be more liberal and more anti-gun. Gun ownership and gun rights are demonized a bit so less people are going to own firearms in those areas,” said Gottlieb.

Gottlieb said national data shows about 95 percent of those who have a concealed weapon permit, or CPL, own a handgun. And that KIRO 7’s mapping data gives a unique perspective on the concentration of actual handguns in the state.

Excluding Seattle, we found about 5.8 percent of Washingtonians have a license to carry a concealed gun.

  • Bellevue is half that at 2.9 percent
  • Olympia and Kent are just above average at about 6 percent.
  • Cle Elum and the 98433 Tacoma zip code have nearly three times the average at 14 and 15 percent, respectively.

Mayor Mike McGinn didn't want to comment on our findings but Seattle police agreed to.

“We always encourage people to not take the law into their own hands. We always encourage them to call police if they think they see something they believe is illegal or is in fact illegal or suspicious,” said Assistant Chief Jim Pugel.

Pugel said lawfully owned guns are too often misused against loved ones, in suicides or accidentally fired by children or their visiting friends.

He was surprised by the "disparity" our maps uncovered; especially, zip codes next to each other with a difference of more than a dozen percentage points.

“Looking at your data, it raises a lot more questions than I have answers for -- it’s, it’s almost profound how many questions you can ask,” said Pugel.

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