U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, a perennial gun-control proponent since his days in Congress, signed legislation Wednesday to ban the open carry of firearms at political rallies anywhere in the state, especially at the Capitol in Olympia.
Gun prohibitionists are claiming a victory for public safety, while critics contend it is unconstitutional under both the state and federal constitutions. The legislation, SB 5038, may be read here.
The Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Article 1, Section 24 of Washington State’s constitution reads, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
Inslee and Sen. Patty Kuderer of Bellevue—the bill’s sponsor—are both Democrats. Kuderer told reporters Wednesday, “This is not a restriction on your right to own a weapon. This is a restriction on where you can carry your weapon.”
But Grays Harbor Republican Rep. Jim Walsh has a markedly different perspective.
“I refused to vote for it on the floor of the House, because I thought it was so plainly unconstitutional,” Walsh said. “This is very troubling.”
Some rights activists contend this is actually a First Amendment issue, an argument that might play in any legal challenge, should one be filed.
Several of Walsh’s constituents, and other rights activists around the state weighing in on Walsh’s Facebook page, concur. According to KING5 News, the NBC affiliate in Seattle, some Evergreen State gun rights advocates are apparently planning to challenge the law, which took effect immediately, in court.
Inslee fell back on standard rhetoric from the gun control lobby, stating, “This is a commonsense approach that extends our existing prohibition on open carry firearms in limited situations, to insure an individual can’t use a weapon to intimidate other citizens.”
His remark was mirrored by Renee Hopkins, head of the billionaire-funded Alliance for Gun Responsibility, based in Seattle.
“The passage of this and the signing of this by the Governor today is an historic moment in Washington state,” she said. “It feels really great knowing that as we head back to Olympia in person hopefully next year that hundreds of people that we work with, many of whom are survivors of gun violence themselves, that they won’t have to face the kind of intimidation that we’ve faced over the last number of years by armed people at the capitol.”
Inslee’s action has garnered national attention. The Hill—the Washington, D.C. publication covering Congress and federal government affairs—noted the new law prohibits the open carrying of firearms “at public protests as well as within 250 feet of such a demonstration.”
However, the legislation does not prevent licensed concealed carry at rallies or inside the Capitol building or state legislative office buildings.
The Hill also quoted a representative from the National Rifle Association, promising the organization “will continue fighting this injustice on all available fronts.”
“The right of self-protection should never be denied whether at home, on the road, or in the public square,” the NRA representative said.
That’s no small concern, considering the presence in Washington State of an increasingly militant Antifa presence. When protesters last summer took over a six-block section of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, several so-called “security” volunteers were given firearms out of the back of a parked car, in violation of existing state law mandating background checks, nobody from the gun prohibition lobby uttered a peep. The incident was captured on video and can be found on YouTube.
Two people were murdered in the so-called “CHOP Zone” during the month the area was occupied, but nobody has been murdered during any gun rights rally anywhere in the state in recent memory, despite the open carry of firearms.
On Dec. 12, 2020, there was a shooting during a clash between pro and anti-Trump demonstrators, but that was near the visitor center, according to the Seattle Times. That building is more than a block away from the Capitol building, though technically part of the “capitol campus,” and this was not a gun-rights rally.
The ban, according to KOMO, the Seattle-based ABC affiliate, was sparked by “the events of Jan. 6, both at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. and the protests the same day at the state capitol in Olympia where several demonstrators were openly carrying their firearms which was legal at the time.”
Many of those Olympia protesters stormed the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion to the south of the Capitol building. This also was not a gun-rights rally.
Hopkins, with the gun prohibition lobbying group, signaled to KOMO there may be more to come. Rights are incrementally eroded, Second Amendment activists have frequently observed.
“This is a step in the right direction for us for continuing to reduce the amount of intimidation that is present when people are trying to take part in the democratic process,” Hopkins said, again echoing a common phrase often used by gun prohibitionists explaining a gun control measure as “a good first step.”
Kuderer, meanwhile, used the same justification in remarks quoted by KING.
“We have hearings with hundreds of people showing up and they have AR-15s strapped over their shoulders,” Kuderer reportedly stated, “They’re not there to protect themselves from some threat, they become a threat.”
Democrats have been in control in Olympia for the past few legislative sessions, and the governor’s office hasn’t seen a Republican in more than three decades. Inslee was re-elected to a third term in 2020.
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