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Open-carry now banned in WA transit stations, libraries, zoos

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(The Center Square) – A new Washington gun law takes effect Thursday which prohibits open carry of firearms in libraries, transit facilities, zoos, and more.

It also prohibits the open carry of knives and other weapons in those locations.

Gun rights enthusiasts say the bill tramples on the rights of law abiding gun owners.

SB 5444 was sponsored by Sen. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, who testified on the bill during a January public hearing of the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

“Our public needs to know that we are taking every step we can to keep them safe from gun violence,” he said.

Liz Hjelmseth with Moms Demand Action testified in support of the bill.

“When my daughter was a toddler we used to go to this park in Bellingham that had a great play structure that was shaped like a boat,” said Hjelmseth.

“One day a man showed up, he didn’t have a child with him, but he was open carrying a gun. The parents became concerned and asked him if he could please move on or leave,” she said. “He refused and the police were called. There was an argument and he was arrested.”

Hjelmseth continued, “Fast forward and I’m at the Bellingham Public Library and I’m going to give a class on how to talk to children about guns. I open up the door to let the parents in and there’s that man again open-carrying, but this time he has 5 friends with him, all open-carrying.”

After the talk she claims the group surrounded her in a threatening way.

Walla Walla County Sheriff Mark Crider testified against the bill.

“It’s almost unenforceable,” he said. “This law has been tried and tested in several other states across the nation and it has been routinely shot down by the courts. It’s a waste of taxpayer money.”

Wade Gaughran of Wade’s Eastside Guns also testified in opposition.

“As we know by definition, criminals don’t obey any law, especially murderous criminals and this law is just another ‘look at us, see we’re doing something’,” he said. “You are doing something. You’re infringing on the rights of law abiding citizens all over this state.”

Gaughran expressed concern about banning open-carry in transit stations.

“I live on the eastside and the transit centers can be very dangerous, buses can be very dangerous,” he said.

Kirk Evans, president of Texas based U.S. Law Shield tells The Center Square, the transit station and bus stop ban on open-carry, could lead to people unknowingly violating the new ban.

“The law applies to transit stations, but not to the buses or trains that pull into those stations,” said Evans. “Then the question becomes how do you get to or from that transit vehicle without going through an area that now bans open carry?”

The law does not apply to concealed carry with a permit. But you can’t carry openly whether you have a permit or not in the newly banned locations.

Violations of the new open-carry ban are considered a gross misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to 364 days, a fine not to exceed $5,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.

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