Gun-toting Shea supporters prompt Democratic proposal to restrict guns in Washington state Capitol

A bill was recently proposed to ban the open carrying of guns in the state Capitol. - DAN BREKKE PHOTO
Dan Brekke photo
A bill was recently proposed to ban the open carrying of guns in the state Capitol.

On Friday, a group of armed protestors, some carrying long-guns and wearing tactical gear, walked into the Washington state Capitol, demanding to see Republican minority leader J.T. Wilcox, the man who'd booted Spokane Valley Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican caucus after a report accused him of ties to "domestic terrorism."

"People were on lockdown," says Rep. Tana Senn (D-Mercer Island). "You had lobbyists leave the building. It was intimidating. It was not a safe work environment."

In particular, Senn was worried for the visiting school kids who were locked in as part of the lockdown.

"We teach them active shooter drills," Senn says. "Are they supposed to flee? Are they supposed to hide? Are they supposed to fight?"

Senn responded by proposing a bill that would BAN OPEN CARRYING guns in the state Capitol, just like in jails, mental hospitals and state airports. She says it's unlikely to get through the Legislature this year, but she plans to bring it up again next year.

Matt Marshall, the leader of the pro-gun Three Percent of Washington group who's challenging Republican minority leader J.T. Wilcox in this year's primary, says he wasn't a part of the group searching for Wilcox on Friday.

But Senn says that's part of the point.

"How is a civilian supposed to know who is the good guy with the gun?" Senn says.

Marshall says he's firmly opposed to the proposal.

"I see it as restricting our inalienable rights," Marshall says. Some people find the First Amendment threatening too, he says, but he's also opposed to restricting speech to free speech zones.

He says he's been expecting a bill like this for a while. He says the Three Percent of Washington have been urging their members not to carry rifles or wear body armor to state Capitol rallies.

"I've taken a lot of heat in the [Second Amendment] community," Marshall says. But he says he doesn't want to give anti-gun activists any more "ammo."

Still, he points to lack of violence during the rally in Virginia recently where tens of thousands of pro-gun activists descended upon Richmond, many of them heavily armed.

"People who exercise their Second Amendment rights are statistically the safest people around," Marshall says.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...