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Gun rights rally sparks open carry debate on state Capitol grounds

A pro-gun rally in Olympia several weeks ago has one Washington lawmaker considering banning guns on the Capitol campus. She said staffers were 'scared.'

OLYMPIA, Wash — Current Washington state law allows legal gun owners to carry weapons in their holsters and over their shoulders at the Capitol campus in Olympia, but one state lawmaker said the practice should come to an end. 

Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island) called for a gun ban proposal on campus grounds after an "intimidating" protest in Olympia two weeks ago. 

She said as many as 100 gun rights activists protested on the Capitol steps and in front of legislators offices carrying weapons and wearing tactical gear.

Senn said staffers and members of the public were scared, prompting her to propose prohibiting gun owners from displaying their weapons on the Capitol campus.

RELATED: 'Never back down': Embattled lawmaker Rep. Matt Shea speaks at Olympia gun rally

“I want to hear from you. Come and share your opinions. Leave your guns in the car,” Senn said. 

Senn said the bill to ban open carry is scheduled to have a public hearing on Friday.

“That is unconstitutional,” said Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen). “The state constitution is even clearer than the federal constitution, that gun ownership is an individual right, not a collective right and that it shall not be impaired.”

Walsh has spoken at several gun rights protests at the Capitol, encouraging gun owners to be calm and courteous when talking about legislation.

“Do it with a smile,” said Walsh. 

During this legislative session, lawmakers are expected to debate a few gun control bills that cover aspects like expanding background checks and limiting magazine capacities to ten rounds.

A bill to ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons could be debated as well.

RELATED: Deadly Seattle shooting could impact gun laws in 2020 legislative session