Your gun rights

Washington's current governor and state attorney general have no respect for the people's constitutional rights to protect themselves, their communities, and the state with firearms. They're invested in government overreach. Despite rhetoric otherwise, they ARE coming to take your guns. Their actions this legislative session in Olympia prove this.

Combined, these two elected officials have promoted at least four “agency request” bills that impair and infringe on Washingtonians' constitutional rights. (Executive branch officials and senior bureaucrats can't file bills directly, of course; but they can write bills and then request friendly legislators file them.) And they've expressed support for several other, similar proposals. Among these bad bills are:

  • House Bill 1143/Senate Bill 5232 (Gov request) creates a new state permit with multiple fees in order to buy or sell any firearm.
  • House Bill 1178/Senate Bill 5446 puts local — city or county — restrictions on owning or carrying any firearm above state law.
  • House Bill 1195 expands the list of places in Washington where you cannot openly carry a firearm to include parks.
  • House Bill 1240/Senate Bill 5265 (Gov/AG request) implements a so-called “assault weapon” ban.
  • House Bill 1130/Senate Bill 5078 (Gov/AG request) creates a new, lower liability threshold for suing gun manufacturers or sellers.

Taken together, these proposals clearly impair your right to buy, sell or keep arms in defense of yourself. So, they violate Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution — which reads: “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, of the state, shall not be impaired….”

Keep in mind that the state constitution's language protecting gun rights is clearer and stronger than the federal constitution's analogous sections. No reasonable person can claim the state constitution refers to a collective or group right. It says plainly that gun rights belong to the “individual citizen.” That is you.

Also important: The state constitution makes the point that, when you exercise your right to have guns in defense of yourself, you make your community — and even the state as a whole — safer.

Judged by their actions, the governor and state attorney general don't believe this. For years, they've been chipping away at your constitutional rights, while also undermining the effectiveness of professional law enforcement.

The results are evident for all to see: Violent crime rates have risen all around Washington state. Homicides are up most dramatically; armed robberies and violent assaults are up, too. This violence has coincided with the governor and state attorney general's efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens.

Perhaps they should read the great science fiction author Robert Heinlein, who famously wrote: “An armed society is a polite society.”

More seriously, they should read the U.S. Supreme Court's recent New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen ruling. That decision is critical — and is changing the way states across the nation handle firearms policy.

Bruen holds clearly state laws restricting, impairing, or infringing gun rights are unconstitutional. Following the decision, federal courts are ordering states to repeal bad policies like the five listed above. And others, like “high capacity” magazine bans or bureaucratic restrictions on how guns can be shared or exchanged.

The Bruen decision involved a state law limiting who could get a concealed pistol license. It was written by Justice Clarence Thomas. Here are some key excerpts:

“The constitutional right to bear arms in public for self-defense is not 'a second-class right, subject to an entirely different body of rules than the other Bill of Rights guarantees.' The exercise of other constitutional rights does not require individuals to demonstrate to government officers some special need.

“…the Courts of Appeals have coalesced around a 'two-step' framework for analyzing Second Amendment challenges that combines history with means-end scrutiny. Today, we decline to adopt that two-part approach. …the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest. Rather, the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation. …When the Second Amendment's plain text covers an individual's conduct, the Constitution presumptively protects that conduct.

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need. That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant's right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works….”

Most recently in Olympia, the conventional wisdom is the governor and state attorney general are backing away from their anti-gun bills. Their early statements for these bad bills secured the support of their left-wing base. Now, facing the likely humiliation of quick rejection by the federal courts, they're not so certain.

That's a sub-optimal way to respect foundational, constitutional principles. But, in today's Olympia, it may be the best outcome common-sense people can expect.

The Second Amendment and Article 1, Section 24, aren't there to protect your right to hunt. They are there to protect your right to defend yourself, your family, your property, and your community. They are there so that you can discourage government overreach. They are there for good, foundational reasons. We need to protect those.

State Representative Jim Walsh, 19th Legislative District
428 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7806 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000