Breaking News
More () »

Police de-escalation training, open carry restrictions among Washington’s controversial bills this session

As the 2021 legislative session continues in Washington state, lawmakers aren't letting a mostly online format stop them from introducing controversial proposals.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state lawmakers are not letting a mostly online legislative session prevent them from introducing controversial proposals.

A bill to ban the open carry of firearms at all demonstrations and on the state Capitol campus in Olympia, known as Senate Bill 5038, passed out of committee last week.

Backers of the bill argued it would make demonstrations and the state Capitol safer for those wanting to express their opinions.

Republican Sen. Keith Wagoner questioned the constitutionality of the measure.

"Do you not see a conflict of logic to support a First Amendment right you’re introducing a bill that suspends a Second Amendment right?" asked Wagoner, R-Sedro Woolley.

Bill sponsor Sen. Patty Kuderer disagreed.

"We put restrictions on amendments all the time. This is just a logical extension of a restriction. It doesn’t suspend the Second Amendment right, you still have that right, you’re just limited where you can exercise it and we already do that. Right now you can’t bring you gun into a courthouse, try it," said Kuderer, D-Bellevue.

A bill to establish a state standard for police use of force and de-escalation training, House Bill 1310, also prompted a long line of debate during a public hearing last Friday morning.

Supporters said the bill would require police officers to only use force when they believe it is necessary. Current law allows use of force when an officer considers it reasonable.

Law enforcement organizations testified against the bill, telling lawmakers it would make a police officer’s job less safe.

"I had a friend who was killed without saying a word. These things happen very fast. Sometimes we can’t de-escalate," said Jeff DeVere, a former police officer who is representing the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.

Family members who lost loved ones to police shootings testified the proposal might have saved their relatives' lives.

The ACLU of Washington said the bill, having a statewide de-escalation standard and restrictions on use of force, would make the state safer for everyone.

"Each punch or kick or flashing of a gun or racial slur, or transphobic insult sends a message that an officer cares more about exerting control through intimidation and humiliation, than about protecting and serving," said the ACLU’s Enoka Herat.

Before You Leave, Check This Out