Washington State’s constitution declares that “the right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired,” but that’s exactly what one lawmaker wants to do after hundreds of gun owners and Second Amendment supporters recently rallied at the state capitol in Olympia while armed.
State Rep. Tana Senn filed a bill to ban firearms at the capitol just before this year’s deadline for new legislation, claiming that the recent civic engagement on the part of gun owners amounted to “intimidation” of her and other supporters of gun control.
“They were all over the building and they were, frankly, intimidating people whether they meant to or not, that was definitely the reaction,” Senn said. “People were scared.”
Legislative staff were notified of the demonstration and the House authorized staff who were made uncomfortable to take leave from work or work from home, according to an email shared with the Northwest News Network.
Senn said she was especially concerned because school children were forced to remain in the House galleries while the armed demonstrators were in the Capitol.
“We teach our kids all the time what to do if there’s an active shooter and then they come to the state Capitol and they see people with these large weapons, how are they supposed to respond,” Senn said.
Senn’s bill would prohibit the possession of openly-carried weapons on the state Capitol grounds. The proposal would amend an existing law that already outlaws guns in places like jails, courthouses and public mental health facilities.
Jails, courthouses, and mental health facilities, huh? If Senn wants to lump her and other anti-gun lawmakers in with criminals and the severely mentally ill, she probably won’t hear too many objections from the state’s gun owners. However, I imagine she’ll hear plenty of protests if her bill starts making progress. And despite what the story says above, Senn’s bill wouldn’t just ban the open carrying of firearms, but the carrying of firearms in general.
Senn’s position is simple: she doesn’t trust the People with the free exercise of their rights, so she wants to stop them from doing so.
There were no issues with any of the gun owners who were legally carrying at the capitol in Washington, just as there were no issues with any of the thousands of legal gun owners on hand for Lobby Day in Richmond a few weeks ago. Despite that, however, anti-gun lawmakers are still making it clear that the right of the people to keep and bear arms will be infringed by them if given the chance, because they get nervous when gun owners are around.
I believe in being a good ambassador for our Second Amendment. I believe that conversation is a far more effective political tool than needless confrontation, and I also believe that as gun owners we can and should be doing everything we can to be as politically effective at persuading the persuadables (is that a word?) to reject unconstitutional and ineffective gun control laws. I’m not a huge fan of slinging an AR-15 to your back while you’re at Starbucks, for example, but I also think that’s a far different activity than open carrying a long gun while at the capitol to protest gun control bills.
Besides, it’s one thing to debate the effectiveness of open carry of long guns as a political statement. It’s something else entirely to make it illegal, which is what Senn wants to do. The legal carrying of a firearm cannot, in itself, be an act of intimidation under the law, but that’s the entire argument for Senn’s proposed gun ban. She saw people legally carrying, she felt intimidated, and therefore guns must be banned.
Senn’s unreasonable fear of law-abiding gun owners and her desire to declare the capitol a gun-free zone will need to pass out of committee by Friday in order to remain viable this session. Right now the bill hasn’t been formally scheduled for a hearing, but we’ll keep an eye out and let you know if it actually gets a vote.