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.