The recent announcement that Washington Lt. Governor Cyrus Habit was unilaterally going to prohibit firearms in the state Senate viewing gallery was coincidentally timed with the publication of a piece about guns on capitol campuses that a leading gun data researcher suggested was biased by omission.
John Lott, founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of several books on firearms and crime, asserted in an Op-ed published by The Hill that news outlets had published an edited version of the story by “systematically excluding one side of the argument — any information that concealed handgun permit holders are law-abiding and don’t pose a risk to others.”
He further suggested that the Associated Press editing of the original 1,000-word article in the Indianapolis Star “provided a unique peek at how the media selectively picks anti-gun information in order to push for gun control.” The edited version appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other publications.
When Habib announced his proposed ban at the capitol in Olympia, Wash., which was almost immediately challenged by Republican State Sen. Phil Fortunato, he contended, “It’s become quite difficult for the Senate to proceed in an orderly fashion when members and staff have, in my view, a justified level of anxiety about their personal safety.” Yet, Habib alluded to a March attack on the British Parliament and the shooting at a Republican baseball practice in northern Virginia in June that was miles away from the U.S. Capitol building.
In an early November update about carrying firearms on capitol campuses, Lott wrote, “Despite carrying being allowed for decades (or possibly even longer) in many…statehouses, the rate of these problems is incredibly rare and in no cases has anyone been injured. There have been no reported problems with civilians being able to carry on statehouse grounds.”
According to Lott’s organization, there are now 21 state capitols where some form of carry is allowed, either for visitors, lawmakers, staff or “all of the above.” Washington is one of those states, and the only incident that seems to have raised alarms there happened almost two years ago when about two dozen people attending a rally on the capitol steps decided to troop inside and then into the House chamber viewers’ gallery. At the time, the House was not in session, and several members of this group raised long guns above their heads for a photograph that streaked across the Internet. It was that incident which led House and Senate leaders to prohibit open carry of firearms in the viewers’ galleries, but not legally concealed sidearms. Now Habib wants to change that, not coincidentally within days of a special Senate election that put Democrats in control of the State Senate.
Last week, the Washington state Department of Licensing reported more than 591,000 active concealed pistol licenses are now in circulation. This adds a complication to Habib’s order.