Washingtonians would have to choose between their First and Second Amendment rights if a bill approved by the Washington State Senate on Thursday eventually becomes law. The legislation would ban the open carrying of firearms at the state Capitol complex in Olympia as well as within 250 feet of any permitted protest in the state, and while Republican senators (and many gun owners) have voiced their objections to the proposal, SB 5038 passed along party lines.
Republican state Sen. Keith Waggoner, who voted against the bill, said during floor debate that the Bill of Rights “are not enumerated in order of importance,” meaning the First Amendment doesn’t outweigh the Second.
“What this bill does is pit one right against another,” he added.
Republican state Sen. Lynda Wilson argued the bill could endanger women who carry a firearm for safety but who haven’t been able to get a concealed carry permit because of a backlog.
“So you have to open carry in order to be able to go someplace,” Wilson said, according to the Times. She said if the woman went to downtown Vancouver, Wash., which she represents, the woman could easily be “within a short distance of a demonstration that just started.”
Wilson’s right. If this bill were to become law people could end up arrested even if they weren’t a part of the permitted protest. Simply carrying near an event would be a violation of the law, which sounds a violation of our constitutional rights if you ask me.
Democrats, however, insist that the legislation is just “common sense.”
“Guns and polarized politics is a bad combination and it poses serious risks to public health and safety,” said Democratic state Sen. Patty Kuderer, the prime sponsor of the bill.
In her speech, Kuderer invoked several recent incidents, including the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in January and the shooting deaths of two people at protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Honestly, I don’t see any practical purpose for carrying a deadly weapon at public demonstrations or here at the Capitol,” Kuderer said. “The only purpose to do it is to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Guns are already banned at the U.S. Capitol, unless you’re law enforcement or a sitting member of Congress. That didn’t stop the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, and if it had really been an “insurrection,” something tells me that the mob wouldn’t have abided by the ban on firearms.
As for the shootings in Kenosha, Kyle Rittenhouse didn’t fire shots at a permitted protest. In fact, there wasn’t a permitted protest taking place in Kenosha at the time. There was curfew in effect because “protesters” had managed to destroy a good chunk of the downtown area the night before.
Facts don’t really matter here, however, at least not to the politicians and activists pushing this ban. It’s the narrative that counts, and the story that these activists are crafting is a fairy tale that promises we’ll all live happily ever after, but only if our rights are restricted first.
They can kiss this ugly frog of an idea as much as they want, but it’s never going to turn into a prince. It will actually increase the polarized political debate in Washington that Kuderer complains about, and anyone with violent intent is simply going to ignore the law to begin with. This is a bad bill that should be defeated, but with the anti-gun majorities in the state legislature, the best chance to thwart this proposal may come in the courts and not the statehouse.
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