Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Open and concealed carry restriction likely to expand

OLYMPIA - The Washington State Legislature has passed a bill to restrict gun owners from practicing open-carry and possession in certain settings after a Senate vote Tuesday.

Rep. Tom Dent, R-Moses Lake, said House Bill 1630 steps on the constitutional rights of Washingtonians. The Democratic-majority legislature is slowly dismantling the 2nd amendment, leaving gun owners with fewer protections.

"Look at what's going on in Ukraine," Dent said, "tell me why they have the right to keep and bear arms."

House Bill 1630, if signed by Gov. Jay Inslee now that it has passed both state chambers, would prohibit the open carry or possession of firearms and other weapons in areas used for local government meetings, school boards and election-related facilities.

Other weapons included in the bill are "​​nun-chu-ka sticks; throwing stars; air guns; stun guns; devices intended to injure a person with an electric shock, charge, or impulse; and weapons listed under the dangerous weapons statute,” according to the bill’s text.

Kevin Fuhr, Moses Lake Police Chief, said firearm intimidation and possession in a school zone is already illegal. HB 1630 attempts to solve something already being taken care of; limiting law-abiding gun owners' ability to carry will not stop a criminal from offending.

If someone wants to vote or attend a council meeting while practicing their 2nd amendment right in a safe manner, Fuhr said he sees nothing wrong with it. He questioned why legislators are limiting citizens' legal right to carry.

"I think there are people that are afraid of guns and this is their way of trying to get rid of them," he said.

Democratic legislators are pushing HB 1630 to address armed intimidation, but Fuhr said Moses Lake does not have that problem.

The threat is when you brandish and threaten someone with a weapon; Fuhr said, the mere sight of a one is not. Taking away the right to carry only limits individuals' ability to defend themselves in shootings.

"If I want to go vote for somebody and I've got a gun on my hip, how am I threatening anybody," Fuhr said.

If enacted, persons convicted of knowingly carrying or possessing a firearm during school board meetings face a misdemeanor for the first offense; any subsequent offenses are gross misdemeanors.

Violaters would also have their concealed pistol license revoked and cannot reapply for three years.

Military, law enforcement and other school district security activities are exempt from the prohibition for school board meetings. CPL holders are also protected but only when picking up and dropping their student off or attending a meeting off district property.

Similar exemptions are extended for local government meetings, except there are no protections for CPL holders. Local authorities would have to post signs at required locations noting the new restriction.

Violators of restrictions at election-related facilities face a misdemeanor for the first offense, with any subsequent offenses being gross misdemeanors. Violaters also face having their CPL revoked for three years. Signs must be posted noting the new restriction at facilities.

HB 1630 passed the Senate Chamber on Monday with a 28-20 floor vote in favor of the new restrictions, following a similar party-line vote in the House last month. Dent said the lack of in-person communication harms legislators' relationships on both sides of the aisle.

The virtual format limits legislators' ability to communicate with each other and build trust. He said HB 1630's Democratic sponsors left Republicans out of the drafting process; lawmakers who represent regions in which expanding gun control is unpopular.

Dent said he would support amending the constitution but through a majority, including voters, not just the legislature. He believes HB 1630 should be set aside until the Democratic sponsors are willing to work with Republicans.

"When the legislature wants to go around the constitution and go around the citizens," Dent said, "to me, that's the wrong thing to do."