OLYMPIA – The Senate Law & Justice Committee held a public hearing on SB 5038 today, which would prohibit the open carry of firearms or other weapons at public demonstrations and the state capitol  grounds. [TVW Link]

SB 5038, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), would also prevent open carry weapons within 1,000 feet of public demonstrations. Similar restrictions exist in Maryland, Alabama, and Washington, D.C.

“The purpose of openly carrying a weapon at a protest is to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Kuderer testifying in support of her bill. “It only serves to increase the risk of violence or death. And we’ve seen over the past several years armed groups engage with peaceful protesters, and sometimes with deadly consequences.” [MP3 Audio Link]

Every state has laws prohibiting concealed or open carry possession of firearms by civilians in certain locations. Common restrictions include courthouses, jail facilities, airports, schools, and behavioral health institutions.

SB 5038 was modeled after a similar law in Alabama that prohibits firearms at and within 1,000 feet of demonstrations in public places. Several states, including California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wyoming have prohibitions on concealed carry, open carry, or both at state legislative and other government-owned buildings.

Responding to a question from another senator on the committee who asked if this restricts a person’s Second Amendment rights in favor of their First Amendment rights, Kuderer rejected the premise of the question by highlighting existing restrictions on gun possession in certain locations.

“It doesn’t suspend the Second Amendment right,” responded Kuderer. “You still have that right. You’re just limited to where you can exercise it. We already do that. Right now you can’t bring your gun into a courthouse. Try it. I can guarantee you, you won’t get very far.” [MP3 Audio Link]

SB 5038 would need to be approved by the Senate Law & Justice Committee by February 15 to be eligible for continued consideration during the 2021 legislative session.

The session is scheduled to adjourn for the year on April 25.