OLYMPIA – Child care centers would be gun-free zones, even for those with concealed pistol licenses, and home day care facilities would have to keep firearms locked up, under a bill that passed the Senate Monday.
The bill would make those facilities like schools, which already are gun-free zones. Supporters said it is designed primarily to keep children from getting hold of firearms and injuring themselves and others.
“The safest thing for everyone is to have no firearms in these facilities,” Sen. Jamie Pederesen, D-Seattle, said.
It passed 26-21 despite warnings from critics that it would make those facilities less safe, not more safe.
Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, said there are child care facilities in some parts of Stevens County where it takes law enforcement officials up to an hour to reach them.
“You put these day care centers without the ability of the center having a concealed weapon if they want it,” Short said.
But the Senate turned down a proposed amendment to exempt people with concealed pistol licenses from the ban on firearms on a 22-26 vote. On a voice vote senators also rejected an amendment from Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, that would have required child care centers to post signs stating “Children unprotected at this location.”
Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, said he was voting for the bill even though he was an NRA member and a gun owner. He views keeping firearms away from children the same as keeping a box of matches away from them.
“We’re not trying to take guns away from people. We’re trying to protect children,” Takko said.
“Everybody in this chamber wants to keep children safer,” Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said. “The question is: What’s the best way?”
An early version of the bill would have banned firearms in public libraries and parks, but those provisions were removed after a committee hearing. Library officials said they were afraid some patrons who have concealed pistol license would stay away if the ban was applied to them, and didn’t have the equipment to enforce the ban or the budget to purchase it.
The Senate approved an amendment Monday that prohibits cities and counties from passing ordinances prohibiting gun possession in parks.
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