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Washington state House passes bill banning open carry at protests, state Capitol

Protesters fill a street during a march in favor of gun control in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Washington state House passed a bill Sunday banning the open carry of firearms at or near permitted public demonstrations or on the Capitol campus in Olympia.

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In addition to prohibiting openly carried weapons in the state Capitol or on the Capitol’s grounds, the bill would bar people from carrying weapons, either on their person or in their vehicle, while attending a permitted demonstration at a public place or while being within 250 feet of a permitted demonstration. An amendment accepted on the state Senate floor exempted people who are openly carrying firearms on private property that they own or lease within that 250-foot buffer zone.

When first introduced, the bill would have banned open carrying within 1,000 feet of a demonstration. It was later amended in the state Senate’s Law and Justice committee to reduce that buffer zone. Protests that don’t have a permit are also not covered under the ban.

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.

Shortly after it passed the state House on Sunday, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Patty Kuderer, labeled it a “victory for common sense.”

“The public wants us to pass gun safety measures,” she said on Twitter.

That said, the larger battle for gun control at the state level has been something of a mixed bag for Democrats this session, after the latest attempt at an assault weapons ban stalled out in committee for the second year in a row.

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A separate bill that sought to ban high capacity magazines faced similar obstacles, passing out of the Law and Justice Committee in January before stalling out in the Rules Committee.

The open carry measure passed largely along party lines in the state House and Senate, by 57-40 and 28-20 margins, respectively. It now heads to back to the state Senate after several amendments added by the House, including an emergency clause that would remove the ability to create a voter referendum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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