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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bill to ban guns at school boards, ballot counting centers passes state Senate

The Washington State Legislative Building in Olympia.  (By Albert James / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Carrying guns and other weapons could soon become prohibited in Washington at schools, local government meetings and election-related facilities.

The state Senate passed a bill 28-20 on Tuesday that bans open carry and concealed carry in a number of different settings.

It will head back to the House of Representatives, who will have to OK the changes made in the Senate.

Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, said on the floor this bill is needed now because people who want to do good in their community, such as elections workers or school board members, don’t feel safe.

“It is unfortunate that we need a bill like this,” Dhingra said. “We have reached a stage in our lives, in our state and in our country that we feel like this is needed.”

The bill follows similar legislation passed last session that bans open carry on the Capitol campus and permitted demonstrations.

At school board meetings on school district-owned or leased property, open carry and concealed carry of firearms and other weapons would not be allowed. Violation is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 or both. Those who violate it would have their concealed pistol license revoked for three years.

Concealed carry would be allowed for a valid license holder who is picking up or dropping off a student.

Open carry and concealed carry also would be prohibited at ballot counting centers. In other election facilities, such as voting centers or county elections offices, open carry would be prohibited, but concealed carry with a license would still be allowed.

A violation of these restrictions is punishable as a misdemeanor the first time and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine and a gross misdemeanor for all others.

At local government meetings, it would be illegal to open carry a firearm or other weapon. Concealed carry still would be allowed for those who have a valid license. Those who violate the bill would have their concealed pistol license revoked for three years.

Exemptions to these restrictions include law enforcement officers and military members.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said he feels safer when he knows that there are people with concealed weapons near him, and he thinks allowing that in these places is a benefit.

“I get concerned … that it is chipping away and chipping away at these Second Amendment rights,” Padden said on the floor.

Democrats, on the other hand, argued during the debate that the bill does not limit Second Amendment rights because it adds to a list of places where firearms are already prohibited, such as courthouses or jails.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.