Hundreds of people turned out Thursday to testify at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on a series of gun-related bills, including one that would allow local jurisdictions to restrict guns in public places.
Washington is an open-carry state where people are allowed to carry firearms in public without a concealed-pistol license. House Bill 2460 would give cities, towns and counties the authority to regulate firearms in public parks, recreational facilities, libraries and transit facilities.
The prime sponsor of the bill, Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, D-Seattle, said the bill aims to protect kids from gun violence in public places.
“These are places that are receiving public dollars,” he said. “They are places where kids learn and play, and they are places where I believe that local authorities…ought to be able to make these decisions where we have so many kids working, playing, studying.”
Seattle attorney Jamie Clausen organizes events and rallies, and says there are few events where she does not see an armed person. “There may be communities where that’s welcomed, but it’s not welcomed in my community,” she said.
She said there needs to be a balance between the First Amendment right to free speech and public assembly with the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, asked Clausen if she thought it would have been better if an armed person was at was there to protect Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat when she was shot at a rally.
To which Clausen replied, “I don’t know which you are talking about, but I know when Gabrielle Giffords was shot there was a person there with a firearm who jumped on the person they believed was the assailant and at the last minute decided not to shoot, only to discover they jumped on the wrong person.”
Her reply drew applause from the audience, many of whom were wearing orange shirts to represent gun control groups.
Other supporters said the bill could help end the stalemate over guns.
“I think that this bill make a lot of sense because in Washington, we are not the same in every city, we have different communities,” said Melinda Barnes, who leads a gun safety organization called “Safety Now.”
Several of the people who testified against the bill said it would only confuse people about where they can legally carry a firearm in Washington.
“What this bill is going to do, is it’s going to make it very difficult for someone like me to teach,” said Paige Biron, an instructor with Pink Pistols, a group that teaches firearm safety and concealed carry classes for the LBGT community.
“Currently I tell my students that they can’t carry in these five places and that works. But what am I going to do now?” Biron asked.
Washington Arms Collectors executive director Phil Shave said the bill would create a “checkerboard of firearm laws.” He said that it would be so complex that compliance by law-abiding public would be impossible — turning state laws on firearms “into a chaotic mess.”
Brian Judy with the National Rifle Association said that this bill was an “attack on law abiding citizens” that could “strip them of their ability to provide a means of self protection in these public places.”
“Urban environments are where crimes are the highest and where law abiding citizens are most likely to find themselves in situations where self defense is necessary,” Judy said.
Two more panels testified in support and in opposition to the bill.