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Gun Rights Advocate, Lawmakers React To Firearms Ban In Washington State Senate Galleries

File photo. The Washington Senate has two viewing galleries where the public sits perched above the Senate floor.
File photo. The Washington Senate has two viewing galleries where the public sits perched above the Senate floor.

Gun rights advocates and legislative leaders are reacting to new rules on guns in the Washington state Senate. Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib announced a ban Monday on all firearms in the public viewing galleries.

The Washington Senate has two viewing galleries where the public sits perched above the Senate floor. That means if there was somebody up there with a gun who intended to do harm, the members of the Senate would be very vulnerable. They would in essence be sitting ducks. And that’s what the lieutenant governor is concerned about.

“I don’t want us to be implementing this type of order the day after some type of tragedy,” Habib said.

Habib, a Democrat, presides over the state Senate. He told public radio and the Associated Press this is a preemptive move to make the chamber safer for members, staff and visitors.

Previously, both the Senate and House banned openly-carried guns in the galleries. That happened after a dramatic guns rights demonstration in 2015 when several people entered the House gallery carrying their guns.

The new Senate rule now expands that ban to concealed pistol permit holders. That sits OK with Brad Mickelson. He was visiting the Capitol from Iowa.

“I feel it’s a right to carry a gun, you can do that, I feel that’s OK,” Mickelson said. “But I don’t know if it’s necessary to bring it in here.”

But Dave Workman feels differently. He’s with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Bellevue.

“This looks like an attempt maybe to keep some people out of the Senate galleries who’ve never caused a problem before,” Workman said.

Reaction from top Senate leaders was mixed. Democrat Sharon Nelson praised the move as necessary in the absence of what she calls “reforms to our nation’s gun laws.” Republican Mark Schoesler urged Habib to seek legal advice to “ensure that the order also respects the public’s constitutional rights.”

The Washington House said it has no plans at this point to adopt a similar ban on all guns in the House galleries.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

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.
Austin Jenkins
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."
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