OLYMPIA – A proposal before lawmakers could make it a crime for someone to carry a concealed weapon into a friend’s home without permission.
The current law allows someone to carry a concealed handgun anywhere in the state with a concealed weapon permit which requires a background check with both state and federal databases.
SB 6415, and its companion bill in the house HB 2738, would make it unlawful for someone to carry a concealed firearm into another person’s home without expressed permission, even with a license to carry. A violation of the law would be a misdemeanor. Also, the bill proposes that if convicted, he or she would have their concealed pistol license revoked for five years.
Senator Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, the bill’s prime sponsor, said he brought the bill before lawmakers when a constituent, Suzanne Cofer, found a handgun left behind in her home after a get-together.
“It should be my right to keep guns out of my own home,” she said.
Rebecca Johnson with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility said leaving a gun unattended could be extremely dangerous for those who have children.
But Paul Strophy with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said that negligence can be addressed through other legislation.
A similar bill on firearm storage, SB5463, sponsored by Senator Guy Palumbo, D-Bothell, mandates civil penalties for unsafe firearm storage. The bill faced stiff opposition from gun rights activists during its hearing on Jan. 15.
Gun rights activists expressed opposition to any enforcement of the storage bill, resisting the idea that officers could mandate gun storage in their own homes.
Strophy said the five-year revocation penalty on the concealed carry bill is too extreme for the circumstances.
Tom Kwieciak, speaking on behalf of the National Rifle Association, agreed. He said those who have a concealed carry license go through extensive background checks and are the least likely gun owners to commit a crime.
“We think that 6415 targets some of the most responsible and law-abiding citizens in the state and will do nothing to increase public safety,” Strophy said.
He also said a property owner already has the right to ask someone to leave if they are opposed to that person carrying a gun.
“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 said.
“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,” he 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.
The bill was heard on Tuesday Jan. 30 and is scheduled for executive action on Thursday Feb. 1.
Taylor McAvoy is a reporter with the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.