Open Carry at Capitol, Demonstrations Now Prohibited After Inslee Signs Bill Into Law

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OLYMPIA — Open carry is now prohibited at public demonstrations and at the state capitol campus, after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Wednesday.

The new law bans open carry within 250 feet of public permitted demonstrations and at the state capitol. It does not apply to concealed-carry, which is allowed with the correct license.

Inslee said it was a "common sense" proposal.

Safety at the capitol campus and protests was on legislators' minds this session after a year of armed protests across the state, including two at the state capitol that ended with shots fired and one that resulted in protesters breaching the gate of the governor's mansion.

Throughout the legislative session, state patrol, National Guard members and Capitol police roamed the campus. Fencing was erected around the Legislature Building. The increased law enforcement ended the day after the session ended, and the fencing came down on May 4.

"What you need when you come to the Capitol is your voice," bill sponsor Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said on the Senate floor in February. "What you don't need is a weapon."

Kuderer and other supporters said the bill expands the list of places where open carry is already prohibited, such as courthouses or jails.

The bill defines a publicly permitted demonstration as "a gathering of 15 or more people at a single event in a public place for which a permit has been issued by a government agency or has been designated as permitted by certain local government officials."

Law enforcement are exempt, as well as people openly carrying firearms on their private property, if a protest is happening outside their home or business.

The final version of the bill passed with an emergency clause, meaning it goes into effect as soon as it is signed into law, instead of 90 days after the end of the session. Emergency clauses eliminate the ability of voters to file a referendum on the bill, if voters wanted to put it on the ballot.

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