The state of Washington has banned gun owners from openly carrying their weapons in the state Capitol in Olympia or within 250 feet of any permitted demonstrations in the state, according to legislation signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee this week.
Under the law, people cannot carry weapons on their person or in their vehicle while at a demonstration in a public area or while within 250 feet of a demonstration. Firearms are also now prohibited in the Capitol and the western side of the Capitol campus near the legislative building.
"This is a common-sense approach that extends our existing prohibition to open-carry firearms in limited situations to ensure an individual can't use a weapon to intimidate other citizens," Inslee said on Wednesday, before he signed the bill, according to the Associated Press.
The bill's sponsor, Democrat Sen. Patty Kuderer, told local NBC affiliate KING 5 News that, "This is not a restriction on your right to own a weapon. This is a restriction on where you can carry your weapon."
She added that while she initially submitted the bill last December, before the Capitol attack in Washington, D.C., and the breach of the security gate at the governor's residence in Olympia, those incidents "put a lot of wind in the sails" for the legislation.
Kuderer said that armed protesters have become worrisome to her and others in the state legislature.
"We have hearings with hundreds of people showing up, and they have AR-15s strapped over their shoulders," she said. "They're not there to protect themselves from some threat. They become a threat."
The National Rifle Association has announced that it "will continue fighting this injustice on all available fronts," according to state director Aoibheann Cline, who added in a statement that "The right of self-protection should never be denied whether at home, on the road, or in the public square," according to the AP.
Republican state Rep. Jim Walsh noted that he "refused to vote for it on the floor of the House because I thought it was so plainly unconstitutional," and added that he and other gun-rights advocates are working on filing a lawsuit.
"This is very troubling," he said.
KING 5 News found in a poll that a majority of registered voters across the state agree with the bill, with 62% agreeing or strongly agreeing, and 31% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the legislation.
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