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After Skagit mall shooting, a spike in gun sales

Law enforcement officers work at the crime scene outside of Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., where several people were fatally shot on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016.
Law enforcement officers work at the crime scene outside of Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., where several people were fatally shot on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. AP

Skagit Arms store manager Guy Hanson stood behind a glass display case filled with small handguns, the type of weapon favored by those with concealed carry permits.

“Usually we have a lot more than this,” he said Wednesday, Oct. 5. “This case isn’t even full.”

Gun sales and concealed carry permit applications have spiked in Skagit County following the Sept. 23 shooting that left five dead at Cascade Mall.

It’s a common reaction to a mass shooting, said Anacortes police Chief Bonnie Bowers.

Her department handled about eight times the concealed carry permit applications than normal the week after the shooting, with 16. She said many applicants were applying due to concerns over the mall shooting.

Other county police departments reported similar increases.

The Sedro-Woolley Police Department tied a department record for most applications received in one day at 12, Chief Lin Tucker said.

“That’s through the roof,” Tucker said.

The Mount Vernon Police Department’s number jumped to 13 for the last week of September after having one application the week before. Burlington has had 13 applications since the shooting after having just one application for the first three weeks of September.

Mary Parker of Anacortes recently applied for a concealed carry permit. She said she had been meaning to apply for the past several months, and the mall shooting served as the final push.

“I want to make sure it would never happen to me and that if it did, I would be prepared,” Parker said. “I want to be in a place where I will never be afraid.”

Skagit Arms owner Anthon Steen said small weapons sales at the Burlington store have doubled since the mall shooting.

“Typically this time of year we are busy with hunting stuff,” Steen said. “We got a double whammy recently because of the increase in handgun sales.”

Dave Bates, manager of All American Armory in Bow, said his store saw an increase in firearms sales across all categories.

“It’s gone down a bit, but it’s not quite back to normal,” he said. “It’s still busy.”

Employees from both stores have been referring inexperienced gun owners to safety classes, something Bowers and others in law enforcement said is important.

Bowers said that it takes hours of practice to become proficient with a gun and that scenarios in which a concealed weapon might be useful can be extremely complex.

To get a concealed carry permit, qualified residents must visit their police department.

The process includes a background check, being fingerprinted and paying a fee. It takes about 30 days to receive the permit.

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