Gun rights in action, in voice

By The Dispatch and WNPA Olympia Bureau

At the same time gun rights are being debated by state lawmakers, residents of Eatonville in increasing numbers are making use of an in-town method of getting permission to carry handguns. The town's Police Department recorded 106 license transactions involving concealed handguns – either applications for permits or pistol ownership transfers -- in 2017. In two previous 12-month periods since the agency began processing such matters, 93 licenses or transfers were issued during December 2015-December 2016 and 78 were handled in December 2014-December 2015.

A running, month-to-month tally of concealed-pistol license (CPL) transactions is reported by the Police Department as part of its regular police activity summaries at Town Council meetings. At the request of Mayor Mike Schaub, the Police Department started a CPL program in December 2014. It's available only to people who reside inside Eatonville. People living outside of town must apply for concealed-handgun licenses through the Pierce County Sheriff Department and South Sound 9-1-), which processes applications in Tacoma. That's also where anyone with a Pierce County address can apply, including residents of Eatonville and the other 11 incorporated cities and towns in the county. Meanwhile, in Olympia, the Legislature has been debating gun legislation and pro-gun activists have been holding public demonstrations during the 2018 legislative session.

One proposal before lawmakers could make it a crime for someone to carry a concealed weapon into a friend's home without the friend’s permission.The current law allows someone to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the state with a CPL, which requires a background check via state and federal databases. Under Senate Bill 6415 (introduced by a senator after a constituent found a handgun left behind by a visitor) and its companion legislation in the House of Representatives, HB 2738, anyone – including a CPL holder -- who takes a firearm into another person's home without their permission would be committing a misdemeanor and could have their CPL revoked for five years. Supporters of the proposed legislation said people should have the right to keep unwelcome guns out of their homes and to make themselves and others safer.

Tom Kwieciak, speaking on behalf of the National Rifle Association, said at a Senate committee hearing Jan. 15 that those who have a concealed carry license go through extensive background checks and are the least likely gun owners to commit a crime. “This bill attempts to cast a scarlet letter on over 600,000 legitimate Washington state concealed pistol license holders,” said Phil Watson, speaking for the Firearms Policy Commission.
Watson also said that hundreds of professions require people to enter private property on a daily basis. Those workers, he said, should have a right to protect themselves by carrying a concealed firearm. To ask the property owner's permission every time they have to do their job would be ridiculous, he claimed.

“Disclosing you have legally concealed firearms runs counter to the very purpose of concealing them in the first place and could cause undue confusion, panic, and unwarranted alarm from those not familiar with guns,” Watson said.
James McMahan, policy director for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs spoke in favor of the bill, but said it needs an amendment to protect law enforcement officers who carry firearms and enter private property in the line of duty.
In opposition to firearms legislation in general, about 100 gun-rights supporters rallied on the steps of the Capitol building on Jan. 12. Most held signs and many carried pistols, rifles or knives.

A long list of speakers, mostly Republican, voiced opposition to legislation they say would limit or eliminate their rights to bear arms. They called on lawmakers of both parties to halt gun regulation bills. The Gun Rights Coalition national chairr, Rick Halle, opened the rally with the Pledge of Allegiance. Robert Satiacum, member of the Puyallup tribe, then led the group in prayer and emphasized that the right tobear arms unites everyone regardless of party lines, race, or ethnicity. The gun regulation bills being considered this session are numerous, but here’s a rundown of the five most contested:
    •    SB 5444 and companion bill in the HB 1387 would require a state license to own, sell, buy or manufacture an assault weapon with a large-capacity magazine.
    •    SB 5463 and HB 1122 would require a firearms seller to sell or give the buyer a locked storage box and mandates that a person who leaves a firearm unlocked or accessible to someone not intended to use the weapon is guilty of community endangerment. Sponsors of HB 1122 include Rep. Christine Kilduff, whose 28th Legislative District constituency includes the Graham and Spanaway areas.
    •    SB 5992, approved by the Senate and pending in the House, would ban any trigger modification devices that increase a weapon’s rate of fire like bump stocks. The latter accessory was used by a gunman in a mass shooting last year of outdoor concertgoers in Las Vegas, Nev.
    •    SB 6049 and HB 2422 would ban high-capacity magazines of 10 rounds or more.
    •    SB 6146 and HB 2666 would allow local governments -- cities and counties – to determine their own gun regulation laws.

Taylor McAvoy of the WNPA Olympia Bureau contributed to this report.



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