The Washington State legislature is considering a bill that would require a concealed firearm carrier to seek permission before bringing a gun into another person’s house.
Both sides debated the bill on Tuesday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee, according to The Spokesman-Review.
The impetus for the new law, according to supporters, came from a Washington State resident named Suzanne Cofer. Cofer hosted a neighborhood gathering one evening and found a pistol on the stairs after everyone had left. Needless to say, she was not amused.
“Persons who do not like guns should have certain rights, too,” Cofer told the committee. “I want to keep guns out of my home, even if I can’t avoid them anywhere else.”
Sen. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, the bill’s sponsor, called it a way to “protect someone’s castle from unwanted firearms.”
A person who fails to get permission before bringing a firearm into another’s home could be charged with a misdemeanor and get their concealed carry license suspended for five years.
Opponents of the bill, including the National Rifle Association, highlighted the bill’s vague language, its uselessness in light of existing trespass laws, and its potential to harm trade workers and law enforcement agents.
Republican Sen. Mike Padden asked Sen. Hunt whether the bill covered private gatherings or all types of meetings. Sen. Hunt said the bill covers all meetings but tried to reassure his colleague that the bill wouldn’t keep someone from attending – it would just keep them from bringing a firearm.
Sen. Hunt’s statement is strange because existing trespass laws already require an individual to leave another person’s home if asked. As Tom Kwieciak, a National Rifle Association spokesman, said at the committee hearing, the bill under consideration is duplicative and unnecessary.
“A property owner can always ask people before they enter the home if they’re armed,” Kwieciak said.
The bill could also keep trade workers and police officers from being able to defend themselves and their equipment while on the job or off duty. A representative of the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs organization said an exemption should be added for law enforcement officers who often carry concealed weapons when off duty.
Ultimately, the bill denies law-abiding citizens the right to self-defense.
“You may not know who’s also at their house,” said Phil Watson of the Firearms Policy Coalition. “You may not know what kind of an environment you’re walking into.”
Watson also pointed out that concealed carry permit holders are “one of the safest segments of our society.” They’ve all passed background checks, and they commit crimes at a fraction of the average rate.
The Senate Law and Justice Committee have yet to vote on the bill. Democrats control the committee 4-3.