While Democrats in the U.S. House appear poised to launch a major gun control offensive with universal and so-called “enhanced” background checks on the front burner, anti-gun lawmakers in the Pacific Northwest are also putting on the pressure.
Lawmakers in Olympia, Washington are moving a bill to prohibit open carry of firearms “and other weapons” on the Capitol campus and near permitted public demonstrations anywhere in the state.
Down in Salem, Oregon Democrats are pressing ahead with Senate Bill 554, which the Oregon Firearms Federation has dubbed the “go to the library, go to prison” bill. It passed out of committee last week on a party line vote, OFF said.
“Senate Bill 554 is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation introduced by Liberal Democrats to make its way to the Senate in years,” OFF said in a news release. If passed, this bill will ban concealed carry permit owners from bringing a firearm on public property, double the cost to apply and renew your concealed handgun license, and ban the possession of pepper spray and stun guns.”
Up in neighboring Washington, Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5038 would make it illegal to open carry, on one’s person or in a vehicle, a firearm or other “weapon” if someone is participating in a “permitted demonstration” in a public place. Anti-gun lawmakers and their supporters in the gun prohibition lobby are using this to prevent people from carrying slung rifles or openly carried sidearms to gun rights rallies, and it could also prevent a repeat of what happened last summer in Snohomish and the Tri-Cities when armed citizens showed up to protect local businesses from being vandalized in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis.
According to the National Rifle Association, SB 5038 “also prohibits openly carrying a firearm or other weapon within 250 feet of a demonstration in a public place after a law enforcement officer advises the person to leave. The intent of the bill is called into question because, under SB 5038’s vague language, a single person openly expressing their views could be considered a ‘permitted demonstration’ if it ‘intends’ to draw a crowd. Senate Bill 5038 potentially causes those who are engaging in otherwise lawful activities to become criminals because of the actions of others.”
Meanwhile, back in “the other Washington,” three House Democrats and three Republicans have joined with House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler and House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson—both Democrats—to introduce H.R. 8, headlined as the “Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021.” The sponsors are Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Robin Kelly (D-IL) and Lucy McBath (D-GA), along with Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Fred Upton (R-MI). The legislation was announced jointly by House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson (CA-05) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
There is another bill, Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which ostensibly will strengthen background check procedures to be followed before a Federal firearms licensee may transfer a firearm to a person who is not such a licensee. This allegedly will close the so-called “Charleston loophole” that allowed a young man to take possession of a handgun when the FBI didn’t complete a background check within three business days. The man subsequently killed several people at a church.
There is some mildly positive news in Seattle, however. The police department has been quietly accepting new applications for concealed pistol licenses, allowing applicants to submit fingerprints from third party fingerprinting services (there are such businesses in the greater Seattle area). To apply for a CPL in Washington state, one must submit fingerprints along with the application.
SPD began taking applications in mid-January after “suspending” new applications in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic panic. But there is nothing in state law that allows for such a suspension, certainly not one spanning ten months.
Since the outbreak began, Washington’s active CPL numbers have steadily declined by more than 25,000 from the high of more than 650,000 on April 1 of last year. New data from the state Department of Licensing shows 624,275 active licenses, and the decline in King County, which encompasses Seattle, has been more than 7,000 active licenses, during a period when many Seattleites were buying guns and ammunition due to demands for defunding the police, and daily civil unrest and rioting in the city.
Open carry is legal in Washington, and the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. Likewise in Oregon, the right to bear arms is protected by the state constitution.