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Gov. Inslee signs bill banning open carry at protests, state Capitol

Washington State Patrol and the National Guard at the Olympia Capitol. (Getty Images)

Open carry of firearms and other weapons is banned at protests and on most of the state Capitol campus and legislative buildings under a bill Governor Inslee signed Wednesday.

Washington Legislature OKs open carry ban at Capitol

SB 5035 makes it illegal to carry guns and weapons such as knives, brass knuckles, and bats, among others, within 250 feet of a permitted protest anywhere in the state, while also blocking them on much of the state Capitol grounds. Specifically, it makes it illegal to:

  • Open carry a firearm or any weapon while at any demonstration being held at a public place — this prohibition applies whether the person carries the weapon on their person or in a vehicle
  • Within 250 feet of a demonstration at a public place after a duly authorized state or local law enforcement officer advises the person of the demonstration and directs the person to leave until they no longer possess or control a weapon — this prohibition does not apply to any person possessing or controlling any firearm or other weapon on private property owned or leased by that person; and
  • On the west Capitol grounds, in any building on the state Capitol grounds, in any state legislative office, or at any location of a public legislative hearing or meeting during the hearing or meeting.

Violations would come after that initial warning is given and offenders would face a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“We’ve seen what happens when people bring weapons to protests,” Democratic state Senator Patty Kuderer, the prime sponsor of the bill, told a House committee in March.

“This isn’t about squelching the 2nd Amendment or denying people the right to bear arms. It simply restricts where they can carry them,” Kuderer added.

Gun rights advocates, including Republican Rep. Jim Walsh, were critical.

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“It creates a mechanism by which one party can restrict the foundational rights of another party,” Walsh argued.

“No,” replied Kuderer, explaining how she did not see it that way since a person still retains the right to carry a weapon. “You just can’t carry it in a certain spot,” she clarified.

The bill includes exemptions for police and does not apply to anyone with a valid concealed carry permit.

It also includes an emergency clause, meaning it will take effect as soon as Gov. Inslee signs the bill.

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