State Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, is shown against a virtual background as she speaks Tuesday during a remote public hearing of the Senate Law & Justice Committee in Olympia. Kuderer is the sponsor of a measure that would ban the open carry of guns and other weapons on the state Capitol campus and at or near any public demonstration across Washington. (TVW via AP)

State Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, is shown against a virtual background as she speaks Tuesday during a remote public hearing of the Senate Law & Justice Committee in Olympia. Kuderer is the sponsor of a measure that would ban the open carry of guns and other weapons on the state Capitol campus and at or near any public demonstration across Washington. (TVW via AP)

Legislators consider open-carry gun ban at demonstrations

Guns would be banned on the state Capitol campus and at or near any public demonstration in Washington.

OLYMPIA — The open carry of guns and other weapons would be banned on the Capitol campus and at or near any public demonstration across Washington under a measure that received a remote public hearing Tuesday, with proponents calling it a common-sense measure amid heightened political divisions and opponents arguing it would infringe on constitutional gun rights.

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Sen. Patty Kuderer of Bellevue, told her fellow members of the Senate Law and Justice Committee that in light of events like the fatal shooting at a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, as well as recent armed protests at the state Capitol that saw violence, the measure was needed “to ensure that weapons are not used to intimidate peaceful protesters or to increase the potential for lethal violence to occur.”

Kuderer’s bill would prohibit people from carrying weapons, either on their person or in their vehicle, while attending a demonstration at a public place or while being within 1,000 feet of a demonstration.

It also prohibits openly carried weapons in the state Capitol or on the Capitol’s grounds. Violation of the law would be a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, or both. She said she modeled it on a similar law enacted in Alabama.

Republican Sen. Keith Wagoner, R-Sedro-Woolley, a member of the committee, challenged Kuderer, asking, “Do you not see a conflict of logic to support a First Amendment right, but you’re introducing a bill that suspends a Second Amendment right? They’re both equal in my mind.”

Kuderer disagreed, saying that the Second Amendment is not suspended under the measure, “you are just limited to where you can exercise that.”

“Right now you can’t bring your gun into a courthouse,” she said. “Try it. I can guarantee you won’t get very far.”

While openly carried guns have been banned in both the public galleries of the Senate and House chambers and in public hearing rooms at the Capitol’s legislative office buildings since 2015, people can still openly carry weapons in the main public areas of the Washington Capitol and on the grounds of the Capitol campus.

Permitted concealed weapons have been banned from the Senate public gallery since 2018, but they are allowed in the House public gallery.

The Capitol building has been closed to the public since last March because of the coronavirus pandemic. But last January, more than 100 people, some with long guns and militarized gear, entered the building and attempted to speak with House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox. In December, there was a shooting that injured one person during a clash between protesters in a parking lot near the Capitol’s two press houses.

More than a dozen states ban open carry in government-owned buildings or state Capitol buildings, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Just four other states plus the District of Columbia prohibit open carry at demonstrations or protests, according to the center.

Supporters of President Trump, including those with guns and a bat, stand outside the Governor’s Mansion after breaching a perimeter fence, Jan. 6 at the Capitol in Olympia, following a protest against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Supporters of President Trump, including those with guns and a bat, stand outside the Governor’s Mansion after breaching a perimeter fence, Jan. 6 at the Capitol in Olympia, following a protest against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file)

Earlier this month, a state panel in Michigan banned the open carry of guns in that Capitol. Moves to ban weapons at the Statehouse there have been pushed since April, when protesters opposed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, some armed with long rifles and other weapons, entered the Michigan Capitol demanding to be allowed onto the floor of a legislative chamber that was closed to the public.

During more than 90 minutes of public testimony before the Washington state committee, lawmakers heard from alternating panels of supporters and opponents of the bill.

Jessica Zielinkski testified in opposition, saying she openly carries a firearm as protection for herself and her three young children. She described a situation last summer where she become trapped within a protest in downtown Seattle while heading home from running errands and was surrounded by angry protesters.

“I was terrified, and I was afraid for my life,” she said. “Under this proposed bill, I would have been guilty of a gross misdemeanor simply because a protest erupted around me and trapped me within it.”

Second Amendment rallies are common in Washington state. The number of protests including people carrying weapons has increased with protesters drawn to the Capitol to oppose coronavirus restrictions and then, after the election, the outcome.

Chief Adrian Diaz, Seattle’s interim police chief, said he’s a supporter of Second Amendment rights but told the committee he supported the proposed bill because the “the presence of firearms at large gatherings have created significant dangers.”

The proposed law would add demonstrations and the Capitol grounds to the list of designated places where firearms are already prohibited statewide, including restricted areas of jails, courtrooms, taverns and commercial airports.

The committee is scheduled to vote on the measure on Thursday.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

The Legislative Building is shown Friday, June 30, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Details of a new two-year state operating budget were released Friday, the same day Washington lawmakers must vote on the plan in order to prevent a partial government shutdown. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington Senate approves new tax on high capital gains

The measure would impose a 7% tax on the sale of stocks, bonds and other assets in excess of $250,000.

FILE - In this March 4, 2018, file photo, then-MacKenzie Bezos arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Scott, philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has married a Seattle science teacher. Dan Jewett wrote in a letter to the website of the nonprofit organization the Giving Pledge, on Saturday, March 6, 2021, that he was grateful to be able to marry such a generous person and was ready to help her give away her wealth to help others. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
MacKenzie Scott marries Seattle teacher after Bezos divorce

The groom taught chemistry at the private Lakeside School, where Scott’s children attended.

Dozens may have been under-vaccinated in Port Townsend error

People who received doses March 4 can be tested to see if they have the proper antibodies.

55,000 in Washington may have to repay unemployment benefits

Some failed to respond to requests for information and became ineligible for money they received.

Whatcom County sees 13 new B.1.1.7 variant COVID-19 cases

Snohomish County has 2 known cases of the mutation, also called the “U.K. variant.”

A syringe of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown Thursday, March 4, 2021, at a drive-up mass vaccination site in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. Officials said they expected to deliver approximately 2500 second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the site Thursday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Vaccine eligibility to expand to more groups on March 22

Included will be workers in agriculture and grocery stores, as well as law enforcement and others.

Seattle teachers vote to stay out of classrooms

The union said it has no confidence that the district will keep educators safe during the pandemic.

Senate OKs bill for graduating students to take bridge year

Seniors also could retake classes and boost grades that may have faltered during the pandemic.

Pacific gray whales spotted in Puget Sound

They tend to congregate in waters off Whidbey Island and feed on ghost shrimp.

Cashmere mom wins custody case that straddles two countries

A Chelan County judge ruled that Saudi Arabian courts did not provide the woman with due process.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 file photo Ethan Nordean, with backward baseball hat and bullhorn, leads members of the far-right group Proud Boys in marching before the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Nordean, 30, of Auburn, Washington, has described himself as the sergeant-at-arms of the Seattle chapter of the Proud Boys. The Justice Department has charged him in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., with obstructing an official proceeding, aiding and abetting others who damaged federal property, and knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building. He asked a judge Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, to release him from detention pending trial. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster,File)
Judge orders release of Proud Boy charged in Capitol riot

The Auburn man will be restricted to home detention and must remove all firearms in his home.

Senate OKs bill prohibiting price gouging during emergencies

Products would include building materials, emergency supplies, gasoline and health care services.