Washington State's "Exposed-Gun-Free-Zones" Take Effect Today

AP Photo/Eric Gay, File

"Gun-free zones" in general are utterly worthless when it comes to protecting lives. If someone is intent on carrying out an attack in a public place, ending as many lives as possible, they're not going to turn away just because they see a sign that tells the "no guns allowed." 

A new law taking effect in Washington State today is even more asinine from a public safety standpoint. It creates a host of new locations that aren't quite gun-free zones... instead banning the open carrying of firearms in these semi-sensitive places. 

SB 5444 received the backing of groups like Moms Demand Action (naturally), but even anti-gun activists couldn't explain how the new law will make anyone safer.

Liz Hjelmseth with Moms Demand Action testified in support of the bill. 

“When my daughter was a toddler we used to go to this park in Bellingham that had a great play structure that was shaped like a boat," said Hjelmseth.

“One day a man showed up, he didn’t have a child with him, but he was open carrying a gun. The parents became concerned and asked him if he could please move on or leave," she said. "He refused and the police were called. There was an argument and he was arrested." 

Hjelmseth continued, "Fast forward and I’m at the Bellingham Public Library and I’m going to give a class on how to talk to children about guns. I open up the door to let the parents in and there’s that man again open-carrying, but this time he has 5 friends with him, all open-carrying." 

Now, I have no idea if Hjelmseth is telling the truth or if she's pulling a Biden, but even in the incidents she described there were no threats directed against her or her kids (though she claims during the second incident the six guys "surrounded her in a threatening way"). Essentially, she was freaked out by the sight of a gun that was lawfully carried and called the cops. 

SB 5444 had plenty of opponents during the legislative session, including Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider.

“It’s almost unenforceable," he said. "This law has been tried and tested in several other states across the nation and it has been routinely shot down by the courts. It’s a waste of taxpayer money."

Wade Gaughran of Wade’s Eastside Guns also testified in opposition.

“As we know by definition, criminals don’t obey any law, especially murderous criminals and this law is just another ‘look at us, see we’re doing something’," he said. "You are doing something. You’re infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens all over this state.”

Gaughran expressed concern about banning open-carry in transit stations.

“I live on the eastside and the transit centers can be very dangerous, buses can be very dangerous," he said. 

Because the law doesn't ban all manner of carrying, I think it's going to be difficult to legally challenge the ban, especially since Washington is under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; perhaps the most anti-2A appellate court in the nation. But I suspect that Sheriff Crider is right about the enforceability of the new law; not because of its questionable constitutionality, but because open carry in these locations is already fairly uncommon to begin with. 

Thanks to the anti-gun majority in Olympia, open carry is now banned in all public libraries, zoos, transit stations and facilities, as well as within 250 feet of any permitted demonstration (with a few exceptions for private property owners who live and work within that zone). Is anybody safer as a result? Nope, but some gun control activists will feel safer, and for the Democrats at the state capitol, that's reason enough to impose the new restrictions.