By Mike Baker Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Supporters of gun rights in Washington state turned out in force Friday at the state Capitol, carrying guns and signs while decrying efforts to control firearms.
Jason Dupea, of Tacoma, one of hundreds of people at the rally, suggested it would be better for lawmakers to eliminate “gun-free” zones or strengthen punishments for those who commit crimes with firearms.
Dupea said he’s a longtime supporter of gun rights but only recently began joining rallies. He’s optimistic that gun owners can block the restrictions being considered by lawmakers.
“I think there’s more momentum with the people for their rights than there is with the government for legislation,” Dupea said while carrying his M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle. “Eventually, the government has to capitulate to the will of the people.”
State lawmakers have proposed a variety of ways to combat gun violence, including an expansion of background checks and allowing teachers to carry weapons.
Supporters of new restrictions are optimistic that some legislation can pass the Legislature this year as lawmakers respond to the mass killing at an elementary school in Connecticut.
Gun advocates argued that new restrictions on gun sales and magazine capacities would infringe on Second Amendment rights.
Many speakers at the rally Friday focused on President Barack Obama and federal efforts to control gun violence. Some shouted to impeach Obama and accused him of committing treason.
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, encouraged people to make their voices heard and remain politically active to defend gun rights. She said afterward that she’d like to see the state focus on mental health issues and make sure people with mental problems are getting treatment.
“These are the ones who commit the crimes,” Roach said. “We’ve done nothing but make it easier for people with mental health issues to walk among us, untreated, and get around firearms.”
Roach said mentally ill people don’t own firearms but get them from family members or steal them. She encouraged people to make sure their guns are stored with a lock.
Supporters of new gun restrictions have long pushed to background checks to cover all sales, including deals between private parties.
Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington Ceasefire, said he was encouraged by support of the idea in the Legislature this year, including that of Republican Rep. Mike Hope, a police officer.