Washington House approves gun ban in vote count and school boards


Guns and other weapons would be banned from ballot counting sites and school board meetings across the state, under a bill approved by the Washington House on Monday.

the measure, which passed the Democratic-led chamber to a 57-41 party line votealso prohibits openly carried firearms at local government meetings and election-related facilities like county election offices, although people who have concealed gun permits are permitted to carry their weapon concealed.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Supporters have cited heightened acrimony over COVID-19 elections and mandates as reasons the restrictions are needed.

“With all the conspiracy theories and tensions surrounding our election process, our dedicated election workers need not do their jobs in fear,” said Democratic Rep. April Berg.

She noted that firearms are already prohibited in several designated locations throughout the state, including restricted areas of jails, courtrooms, taverns and commercial airports.

“We shouldn’t allow guns in places where we practice democracy, period,” she said.

Republican Rep. Kelly Chambers said the measure unfairly targets those who have concealed gun licenses and “hampers their ability to defend themselves.”

“It makes the rest of the community less safe as we continue to chip away at areas where these law-abiding citizens can carry their guns in concealment,” she said.

Under the bill, it would be illegal to knowingly bring firearms — whether carried openly or with a concealed gun permit — and other weapons to school board meetings and ballot counting centers of voting. Openly carried weapons would be prohibited at other election-related sites, such as election offices, voting centers and student engagement centers.

The open carrying of firearms and other weapons would also be banned at local government meetings, such as town and council meetings. Last year, lawmakers approved bans on the open carrying of firearms and other weapons at the Washington State Capitol, part of the Capitol campus and public events throughout the state.

Law enforcement is exempt from the restrictions, as are any security personnel hired at a site.

Violating the law would be a felony, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Additionally, anyone convicted would have their concealed gun license revoked for three years.

Under this measure, a person must have knowingly broken the law for the criminal sanction to apply.


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