Two armed men at a protest supporting President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Two armed men at a protest supporting President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Olympia. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

State Democrats push new round of open-carry gun restrictions

They want to keep guns away from ballot counting and out of places where city councils and school boards meet.

OLYMPIA — You can openly carry a firearm in Washington, though places to do so legally are disappearing.

Courtrooms, jails, schools and airports have long been off-limits. A few months ago a new law added the campus of the state Capitol to the list. It also banned open-carry at or near public rallies and demonstrations.

Majority Democrats in the House and Senate, who pushed through that law, are working this session to extend prohibitions on open-carry to, in one lawmaker’s words, “wherever democracy takes place.”

Their approaches are noticeably different.

In the House, Democrats are pushing House Bill 1630 to bar firearms and other dangerous weapons from places where government bodies meet, like city councils, county councils and school boards. Weapons also would be barred from election offices, ballot counting facilities and voting centers, and election officials would be required to post signs detailing the restriction.

Law enforcement officers would be exempt — private security personnel, as well, if they’ve completed firearm training. A person licensed to carry a concealed weapon could have a gun in buildings and facilities where meetings are taking place. Even they could not have the weapon on them in areas where ballot counting is occurring.

“I would prefer us as a state to be clear in our intention that these are safe places and they are free of weapons,” said Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek. Those locations where democracy takes place “do not need weapons,” she said.

Berg authored a separate bill to keep guns out of election centers. She amended it into HB 1630, which awaits action in the House Rules Committee.

Their Senate counterparts are looking to allow cities, towns, counties and other municipalities to craft their own open-carry restrictions beyond statewide rules. Senate Bill 5568 would modify current law, which preempts local governments from doing so.

That legislation moved out of the Senate Law and Justice Committee Thursday on a party-line vote. It awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee

Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, the prime sponsor, said local elected officials sought the option to exceed state restrictions.

Both bills are in response to what Democrats say has been a dangerous uptick in tense confrontations at public meetings fueled by national politics, pandemic policies and instruction of social theories. It’s much the same argument made last session, when they debated and passed the ban on open-carry at the Capitol and at public demonstrations.

“If you feel a need to bring a weapon to a school board meeting … what is the point, if not to intimidate? It’s intended to be intimidating,” Kuderer said. She doesn’t view the House bill to be competition. “If doing something statewide is preferred, I am going to vote for that happily.”

Renee Hopkins, chief executive officer of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, considers the bills complementary. Combined they will add safeguards against political violence.

“The most important thing is that open-carry not be allowed to keep people from being able to access their First Amendment rights,” she said.

A leading gun-rights activist said Kuderer’s bill is problematic because it could result in a patchwork of laws city-to-city and county-to-county.

“Between Olympia and Seattle, there might be 20 different laws in the communities,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. “This would let the city of Seattle run wild.”

Neither of the bills is necessary, he said.

“Basically they are solutions in search of a problem,” he said.“Each year they chip away. If it was up to them, they wouldn’t allow gun ownership.”

Outlawing open-carry altogether is not on the Democrats’ agenda.

“That is not a conversation I’ve had with any of my colleagues,” Berg said. “As a mother, I personally do not love seeing people carrying firearms openly. That is a conversation we can have at another time.”

Kuderer is ready now. With the country’s serious gun problem, she doesn’t get why people feel they need to openly carry weapons wherever they go.

Washington “should not be an open-carry state,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of in Washington state. The fact that we’re an open-carry state is not one of them.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood woman sentenced for stabbing Bellingham woman while she slept

Johanna Paola Nonog, 23, was sentenced last week to nine years in prison for the July 2022 stabbing of a woman she’d recently met.

Granite Falls
Man presumed dead after fall into river near Granite Falls

Around 5 p.m. Sunday, the man fell off smooth rocks into the Stillaguamish River. Authorities searched for his body Monday.

Pilot found dead near Snoqualmie Pass after Arlington flight

Jerry Riedinger’s wife reported he never made it to his destination Sunday evening. Wreckage of his plane was found Monday afternoon.

Firefighters respond to a fire on Saturday morning in Lake Stevens. (Photo provided by Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue)
1 woman dead in house fire east of Lake Stevens

Firefighters responded to find a house “fully engulfed in flames” in the 600 block of Carlson Road early Saturday.

YMCA swim instructor Olivia Beatty smiles as Claire Lawson, 4, successfully swims on her own to the wall during Swim-a-palooza, a free swim lesson session, at Mill Creek Family YMCA on Saturday, May 18, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Splish splash! YMCA hosts free swim lessons around Snohomish County

The Y is building a “whole community” of water safety. On Saturday, kids got to dip their toes in the water as the first step on that journey.

Bothell
2 injured in Bothell Everett Highway crash

The highway was briefly reduced to one northbound lane while police investigated the three-car crash Saturday afternoon.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

The Eternal Flame monument burns in the center of the Snohomish County Campus on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Elected officials to get 10% pay bump, or more, in Snohomish County

Sheriff Susanna Johnson will see the highest raise, because she was paid less than 10 of her own staff members.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.