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Washington Senate Bans Open-Carry Guns In Public Galleries

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Gun owners display their weapons in the upper gallery of the House chambers, Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash.

Umbrellas, strollers and backpacks were already banned from the public viewing galleries in the Washington House and Senate.

Now Senate leaders have added a ban on openly-carried guns. The House may soon follow suit.

The move follows a recent incident in which several gun rights advocates brought their firearms into the Washington House gallery. The State Patrol threatened one man with arrest because he had his finger near the trigger of his gun.

That incident triggered a renewed discussion over guns in the galleries. House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan noted there’s already a House rule that prohibits other items from the public viewing areas.

“We believe that the rule that exists today and has existed far before the time that I got here would apply to any kind of props or demonstrations which would prohibit weapons or guns in the gallery,” he said.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen presides over the Washington Senate. He supports a ban on open-carry in the galleries both to cut down on distraction and to put lawmakers on the floor at ease.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.