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How Hard Is It to Get a Concealed Handgun License in Portland? Let Me Count the Ways.

AP Photo/Michael Hill

I’ve put off getting my concealed handgun license for many years. Inertia, ill-defined fears about being “in the system,” and a general lack of urgency all contributed. Additionally, living in Multnomah County, just outside of Portland, I have exactly zero faith that our Maoist, Soros-backed, antifa-loving district attorney Mike Schmidt would offer me a fair trial should the time arise that I need to use my 2nd Amendment rights. After all the shenanigans 2020 visited upon us, however—especially in Portland—I decided the time was right (even though I lost all my handguns in a tragic boating accident).

So, the day after Christmas 2020, I filled out the application, paid the $55 course fee, and passed the online handgun safety course required for the license. I knew that skyrocketing demand meant I was in for a much longer wait time than normal, and so I chuckled slightly and just sort of accepted it when the system told me my appointment to get my license would be in April 2021.

In the interim, my family and I had decided to move to Florida after the current school year ends. We became occupied with house-hunting, packing, selling a second property, and arranging contractors to make repairs to get our main home on the market. A whole series of columns will follow detailing why we decided to bail on Oregon, but suffice it to say that the kids needed real school, our entire family needed relief from pandemic fascism, and we have grown weary of big-city life.

This will become important in a moment.

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Again, I had no real sense of urgency, and I’ve gone this long without my concealed handgun license, so I didn’t sweat the wait too much. It did make me wonder, though, what if you’re in a higher-crime neighborhood watching the crime rate skyrocket throughout Portland, as response times increase in direct proportion to how much city council has defunded the police? What if you’re in an abusive relationship, need a restraining order, and know that the police can’t protect you? What if you are worried about exploding gang violence? Any number of scenarios could give a Portland resident pause to consider carrying a handgun.

Anyway, my appointment rolled around on April 21 at 11 a.m. I showed up at the Penumbra Kelly Building, home of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), a few minutes early. Even though I’ve lived through nightly riots in Portland, I was still taken aback at the appearance of the building. Plywood covering EVERYTHING. I walked in, and the lobby was completely unlit. I looked up and saw plywood covering all the windows.

It looked like the working definition of dystopia.

I took their COVID-19 quiz and had my temperature taken. After a few minutes, the two ladies who process the paperwork arrived. Since I had arrived first, I was up. I walked into the little room to get my picture taken, get fingerprinted, etc.

We made small talk: “Boy, you guys are backed up, huh?”

“Yeah,” one of them replied, “it’s been pretty busy.”

“Seems like a nice place to work, at least, with all the plywood …” That engendered a snicker from both.

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The one lady finished taking my digital fingerprints, and the other took my $65 license fee. I was now into this thing for $120, the cost of the exam and the fee for the license. Next up, they took my picture for my concealed handgun license.

I got my receipt, my ID, and my certificate of course completion back. What the clerk said next caused me to double-take, as if I hadn’t heard her correctly.

“Ok now, this is not a license.”

“I—I’m sorry?”

“This is not a license. You won’t be receiving your license today.”

This, as you may imagine, was news to me.

“Yeah,” she said to me, “we still have to run the background check, and process your paperwork.”

I blinked back at her, disbelievingly.

“It could be up to 90 days.”

Now, mind you, I’ve legally purchased an undetermined amount of firearms in the not-so-distant past (all of which, I must reiterate, I tragically lost in a boating accident). When things got super busy, around Christmas time, my background check took up to an hour or two.

The MCSO told me that the entire process, from application, to safety certification, to license issue, will stretch from December 2020 to around July. Eight months.

Good thing Portland hasn’t given anyone a reason to need a concealed handgun over the past year and a half.

Remember, I had decided in the interim to pack my family up and move to Florida. This will happen sometime in June. Here’s the ironic thing. It’s almost certain that my new Oregon concealed handgun license will need to be forwarded to my new address out of state if and when it is finally issued. It’s also entirely possible that I will get my Florida license well before my Oregon license arrives.

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A few things have run through my head about this whole ordeal. One: I know this is liberal deep-blue Portland. The clerks in the office reported, however, that they’ve seen unprecedented demand. The number of customers in the lobby confirm this, and the clerks also tell me they have appointments all day, every day. There must be thousands of Multnomah County residents applying for concealed handgun licenses, for myriad obvious reasons.

Two, and much more sinister: the conspiracy part of my brain can’t believe the Multnomah County Sheriff hasn’t used the pandemic and the nightly riots and the exploding demand as excuses to slow-walk CHL applications. That’s just how the politics of this county work.

A variety of forces have converged to make acquiring your concealed handgun license in Portland as onerous as possible. Just another in the pile of reasons to move out of Multnomah County and migrate to somewhere that doesn’t make it so difficult.