File photo

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Snoqualmie to resume fingerprinting for concealed pistol licenses

City seeks contract with third-party company after pandemic halts first time license applications.

Concealed pistol licenses haven’t been issued in the Snoqualmie Valley since spring, after police stations closed to the public, but agencies in King County are preparing to resume processing applications.

Snoqualmie Police Department Capt. Nick Almquist said they stopped processing first time license applications in February or March. Part of this process includes taking several sets of fingerprints, which can only be done in person.

This became impossible after the police station was largely closed to the public in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Most police agencies across King County have taken similar measures, and backlogs of new applicants are piling up.

Almquist said Snoqualmie is in the process of contracting with a third party company to resume fingerprinting. The company would create a portal for people to apply and pay for the license, and set up appointments with Bellevue Fingerprinting Services.

“Like Snohomish County and Redmond and Bellevue and Kirkland have done with the same company,” he said.

The contract is being reviewed by the city attorney. If it’s approved, Snoqualmie police could begin issuing permits within three to four weeks.

A new application process is more intensive than a license renewal, requiring a background check in addition to a fee and fingerprints. In contrast, concealed pistol licenses can be renewed entirely online.

For residents in unincorporated King County, the King County Sheriff’s Office will resume processing first time applications on Oct. 1, after being shut down in mid-March, said sheriff’s office spokesperson Sgt. Ryan Abbott.

The sheriff’s office stopped accepting new concealed pistol license applications, meaning it doesn’t have a backlog to work through. The county has a new scheduling system that will allow applicants to socially distance as they wait for their fingerprints to be taken.

Like the Snoqualmie Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office has been handling license renewals online.

In Snohomish County, an estimated 2,300 people were waiting to get their concealed pistol license as of late June, the Everett Herald reported.

In the Snoqualmie Valley, delays have been irritating gun owners, said Mike Marinos, owner of Bigg Dogg Firearms in North Bend.

“People are pretty pissed off,” he said.

Washington is a shall-issue state, meaning law enforcement is obligated to issue concealed pistol licenses to all applicants who meet its criteria, like passing a background check and paying the associated fees.

Marinos said North Bend, like most of the country, is seeing a boom in firearms and ammunition sales. There’s a shortage of most calibers of ammunition for both pistols and rifles. And some manufacturers have stopped shipping certain guns.

“The supply chain is broken, so getting ammunition is next to impossible. And when you can, it’s doled out maybe a box or two at a time,” Marinos said.

New gun owners are frustrated that they haven’t gotten permits to let them carry concealed firearms, Marinos said. In Washington state, a concealed pistol license is required to carry a pistol beneath clothing, or to carry a loaded pistol in a vehicle.

But for those who have decided to purchase a firearm, Abbott encouraged them to become familiar with firearm safety.

“Make sure that you’re familiar with your gun prior to purchasing,” he said. “And you can put yourself through training classes, safety classes, prior to purchasing or handling a firearm.”

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