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Sheriff sees spike in gun permits in Island County

The growing number of gun permits requested countywide became a topic of discussion at an Oak Harbor City Council meeting last week.

A wounded Army veteran caused a bit of a stir at the meeting when he admitted to being armed.

Just how unusual it is for someone, other than a cop, to bring a gun into a council meeting, a standing committee meeting or any other kind of meeting in City Hall is difficult to know.

Hundreds of people in Island County have concealed weapons permits. At least two Oak Harbor City Council members have licenses to carry, though they both have said they haven’t come to a meeting armed.

Law enforcement officials on the island don’t keep a running tab on the total number, but a permit becomes part of a person’s record if he or she is stopped by police.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown said 874 people have applied for concealed weapons permits at his office since a new reporting system went online in July.

He said the number of applications seemed to increase in November then spiked after the school shooting in Connecticut.

“We’re seeing a huge number of people requesting concealed weapons permits,” he said. “We’re always busy with that.”

His office received more than 500 applications since November, which doesn’t include people who live in Oak Harbor. Those applications are handled at the Oak Harbor Police Department.

Brown said the process isn’t difficult. A person has to fill out a form and get fingerprinted. It takes 30 days to complete a records check to ensure that the applicant is qualified. Felony or domestic-violence convictions, for example, disqualify people from possessing guns.

Brown said the applicants’ mental health histories are now checked through the Department of Social and Health Services to ensure they are qualified to own a gun.

If everything checks out, Brown said a concealed license permit is issued to the applicant. There are no subjective decisions involved.

“If they qualify, they get it,” he said. “That’s the law.”

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