OLYMPIA – Public libraries, parks and child care facilities could be added to the list of gun-free zones in Washington in what supporters say is an effort to keep children safe in more places.
But opponents say it could actually make them less safe by creating more places that are “soft targets” for criminals who will know there’s no one armed and able to stop them.
Schools, courthouses, public health facilities and secure areas of airports are already gun-free zones where dangerous weapons aren’t allowed, even for people with concealed weapons permits. A bill by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, would add public libraries, licensed child care centers and municipal parks where children are likely to be present to the list of places to be marked as gun-free zones. Family day care centers wouldn’t be declared gun-free zones but would be required to take special precautions to secure any firearms the owners have.
Supporters noted that Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school.
“Guns in any area with children is more of a liability than an asset,” Judith McGinty of Olympia told the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
But Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, questioned barring people with a concealed weapon permit.
“They have an extremely low – lower than law enforcement – incidence of criminal activity,” he said.
Opponents said many mass shootings, including the Parkland shooting, have occured in gun-free zones.
J.B. Herren, a firearms instructor, said everyone wants to keep children safe, but this isn’t the way to do it.
“A gun-free zone would only be respected by law-abiding citizens who respect the law,” Herren said.
Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, countered the test shouldn’t be what only law-abiding citizens will do. Some people don’t stop for stop signs, but “we’re not going to remove stop signs,” she said.
Abby Moore of Public Libraries of Washington said some members of that group were concerned about possible impacts of the bill, which could require them to hire security personnel and buy metal detectors and gun storage units for patrons who regularly carry weapons.
The committee will decide whether to advance the bill in the coming weeks.
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