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Two open carry bills pass out of Washington legislative committees

One bill would ban the open carry of firearms at the Capitol and at demonstrations, and the other would increase the penalty for groups carrying guns.

OLYMPIA, Wash — Two bills related to openly carrying firearms in Washington state passed out of committees Wednesday before the first deadline of the legislative session.

Senate Bill 5038 would prohibit the open carry of firearms on the state Capitol campus in Olympia and within 250 feet of a permitted demonstration. People with concealed weapon permits could still have their concealed weapons at those locations. 

The original version of Senate Bill 5038 included a ban that prohibited someone from carrying a firearm within 1,000 feet from a demonstration. 

Also on Wednesday morning, House Bill 1283 passed out of the House Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee. That bill would prohibit three or more people from openly carrying or displaying a weapon in a threatening manner.

The crime is currently a gross misdemeanor, but if the bill passes it would increase the penalty to a felony. Legislators on both sides voiced their opinions Wednesday on House Bill 1283.

"They're not breaking the laws, they're not brandishing a weapon, they're not threatening anybody," said Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, "and regardless if it's one, three, twenty or a hundred people, if they're not actually breaking the law, this is taking law abiding people and turning them into felons." 

But Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, disagreed.

"The bill today doesn't change that at all," said Hansen. "It just says if three or more people are doing it together, it's more serious, and you can see why it's more dangerous if three or more people are engaging in unlawful conduct together than it is if it's just one person doing it."

An exclusive KING 5 News poll shows 58% of Washington adults surveyed support banning the open carry of weapons at protests and demonstrations. About 28% think open carry should be allowed, and 14% aren’t sure.

Both Senate Bill 5038 and House Bill 1283 now head to their respective Rules Committees. 

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