- Washington state law allows individuals to exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble at demonstrations.
- Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to legally carry a firearm while attending a permitted demonstration.
- Open carrying of firearms at demonstrations is prohibited, but concealed carry is permitted with a valid concealed pistol license.
- It is unlawful to open carry a firearm within 250 feet of the perimeter of a permitted demonstration after being directed by a law enforcement officer to leave.
- Firearms are also prohibited on the West Capitol grounds for demonstrations, except for lawful concealed carry.
- Understanding the nuances of Washington gun laws and having a valid concealed pistol license are crucial for lawful firearm carry at demonstrations.
Summer in Washington state not only brings barbecues, vacations, and swimming, but also the rise of protests and demonstrations. As the legislative session concludes, people become passionate about various causes, leading them to express their views in politically charged events. However, there is often confusion surrounding the intersection of exercising the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and the Second Amendment right of self-preservation, particularly in relation to carrying firearms. In this article, we aim to clarify the legalities of carrying firearms at demonstrations in Washington state.
Understanding First and Second Amendment Rights: The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and peaceable assembly. It allows individuals to voice their opinions and gather with like-minded people to advocate for a cause. Similarly, the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms for self-defense purposes.
Dispelling Misconceptions: Contrary to popular belief, Washington state law does not prohibit carrying firearms at permitted demonstrations while exercising First Amendment rights. Many individuals mistakenly assume that carrying a firearm while attending a demonstration is illegal. However, this is not the case.
Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry: Washington state law differentiates between open carry and concealed carry of firearms. Open carrying refers to visibly carrying a firearm on one's person or in a vehicle, while concealed carry involves carrying a concealed firearm with a valid concealed pistol license (CPL).
Prohibited Open Carry: RCW 9.41.300 outlines areas where firearms are prohibited. Specifically, subsection 2A of this statute states that it is unlawful to knowingly open carry a firearm at a permitted demonstration. This prohibition applies whether the firearm is carried on one's person or in a vehicle. Therefore, open carrying of firearms at demonstrations is not allowed.
Restricted Area and Officer's Directive: Additionally, RCW 9.41.300 subsection 2B prohibits being within 250 feet of the perimeter of a permitted demonstration while open carrying a firearm after being directed by a duly authorized law enforcement officer to leave and disarm. However, if no officer has ordered an individual to leave and disarm, they may remain in the location without violating the statute.
Lawful Concealed Carry: Importantly, RCW 9.41.300 subsection 2E states that nothing in the aforementioned subsection applies to the lawful concealed carry of a firearm by a person with a valid concealed pistol license. This means that individuals who possess a valid CPL can legally carry a concealed firearm at a permitted demonstration, as long as the demonstration area itself is not designated as a gun-free zone.
West Capitol Grounds Restrictions: It is worth noting that RCW 9.41.305 prohibits open carrying of firearms on the West Capitol grounds for any type of demonstration. However, the same statute explicitly states that lawful concealed carrying of a firearm on the West Capitol grounds is not affected by this prohibition.
Conclusion: In conclusion, individuals in Washington state can legally carry firearms while attending demonstrations, as long as they abide by the relevant laws. Open carrying of firearms at demonstrations is prohibited, but lawful concealed carry is permitted with a valid concealed pistol license. It is crucial to understand the nuances of Washington gun laws, such as RCW 9.41.300 and RCW 9.41.305, to ensure compliance and the protection of both First and Second Amendment rights.