OLYMPIA – The open carry of weapons within 250 feet of permitted public demonstrations and the state capitol grounds will now be prohibited under a bill signed into law by Governor Inslee on Wednesday.
SB 5038, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), makes Washington the ninth state plus D.C. to ban open carry weapons at public demonstrations, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Gun violence in America is ultimately a public health crisis,” said Kuderer. “Nearly 40,000 lives lost each year is simply unacceptable. This new law is a small but important step toward reducing gun-related injuries and deaths. But lawmakers still have a lot of work to do to keep our communities safe. Restricting access to high-capacity magazines and assault weapons are reasonable steps lawmakers can take to prevent mass shootings and save lives without infringing on anyone’s constitutional rights.”
Every state has laws prohibiting concealed or open carry possession of firearms by civilians in certain locations. Washington state law currently restricts firearm possession in courthouses, jail facilities, bars, airports, and behavioral health facilities.
While some lawmakers argued the bill violates the Second Amendment, that argument was rejected by a recent ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment,” wrote Judge Jay Bybee in the majority opinion.
SB 5038 exempts on-duty military and law enforcement personnel, and any property owner or renter on their own property even if the demonstration is inside the 250-foot perimeter.
SB 5038 would also prohibit open carry of firearms on the west capitol campus grounds where the state Legislative building, member and staff offices, governor’s mansion, and press houses are located.
Several states, including California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming have prohibitions on concealed carry, open carry, or both at state legislative and other government-owned buildings, according to the Giffords Center.
“Every state has laws on the books that limit where you can exercise your Second Amendment rights,” said Kuderer. “You can’t bring a gun into a bar or a courthouse in Washington as that poses a serious risk to public safety. This bill simply places similar restrictions on open carry weapons at the Capitol campus and permitted demonstrations.”
SB 5038 contains an emergency clause, which means the bill took effect immediately following the governor’s signature.