Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature.
Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported.
"There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period," Habib said. "It's about the policy."
The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well.
Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended.
In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable.
"Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries," the statement said. "Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action."
Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence.
Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, called Habib's concerns "unfounded and irrational."
"Concealed carry holders should make him rest easy, not be unnerved since they are among the most law-abiding citizens in the state," Fortunato said in a statement. "If he’s concerned about safety protocols, he should focus the real threat of ’Gun Free Galleries.’ The ban on concealed carry in the Senate is just words on paper. He should have more of a concern with bad people doing bad things – they tend to not have carry permits.”
Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week.