The Washington chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, the grassroots networks of Everytown for Gun Safety, today released the following statements after the Senate passed SB 5038, which would prohibit the open carry of firearms on Capitol grounds and at permitted protests. The bill now moves to the House.
“Guns and democracy don’t mix,” said Juliet Scarp, a volunteer leader with the Washington chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We’re so glad that our Senators took action to protect our democratic institutions from people openly carrying firearms to intimidate those they disagree with.”
“Ideas ought to have the power in our public debates, but when someone is openly carrying, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are – whoever has the gun, has the power,” said Talia LeVine, a volunteer with Students Demand Action in Washington. “By prohibiting open carry on Capitol grounds and at protests, our lawmakers are ensuring that the work of democracy can proceed without the shadow of armed intimidation.”
Open carry, which allows for carrying firearms visibly in public, is a dangerous policy. It is exploited by white supremacists and opposed by law enforcement and the public. Research shows that open carry makes us less safe: visible guns have been found to make people more aggressive; therefore open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts.
The open carry of loaded firearms during any demonstration increases the likelihood that such an event will escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation. Members of hate groups regularly openly carry guns in a show of intimidation. Last year, 250 self-proclaimed militia-men and armed vigilantes showed up at the Washington statehouse to intimidate lawmakers because open carry of loaded firearms at demonstrations is perfectly legal.
Recently, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and Students Demand Action unveiled a new policy plan designed to eliminate armed intimidation from politics by prohibiting guns at Capitol buildings and on Capitol grounds, sensitive government facilities, polling locations, vote counting locations, and protests on public property. These recommendations, which are laid out in full here, come as an estimated two-thirds of Americans are concerned about violent domestic extremism after a year of armed extremists killing people, intimidating peaceful protestors, storming Capitol buildings, and –– most recently –– attempting an armed coup at the behest of President Donald Trump and his Congressional allies.
More information about open carry legislation is here. Additional information on gun violence in Washington is available here, and Everytown’s Gun Law Navigator — which shows how Washington’s gun laws compare to those of other states — is available here.
To speak with a policy expert or Washington Moms Demand Action and/or Students Demand Action volunteers, please do not hesitate to reach out.