OLYMPIA – A bill placing new restrictions on “open-carry” rules illustrates an urban lack of understanding of rural concerns, says state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.
Senate Bill 5038 bans the open carrying of firearms in public places while demonstrations are taking place, as well as at any time on the West Capitol Campus in Olympia. The measure passed the state Senate Thursday night after heated debate, 28-20. Sheldon was the only Democrat to vote against the bill.
The measure now moves to the House for further consideration.
Sheldon noted that his 35th Legislative District, covering Mason County and parts of Kitsap and Thurston counties, is the most rural in the state, with the greatest number of people living in unincorporated areas. Sheldon said many of his constituents have grown up with guns in their homes and are comfortable with firearms. People who live in rural areas recognize such measures as an attack on their Second Amendment rights, he said.
“My constituents look at this bill as another step to take away their gun rights and take away their ability as a private citizen to own a firearm.
“Now, others might say, that doesn’t make sense, Sheldon, this is just about the Capitol grounds and [legislative visitor] galleries. But people don’t see it that way. They see it as a gradual erosion of their ability to keep and bear arms.”
Sheldon pointed out that law enforcement response times are dramatically longer in rural areas, and that rural residents rely on firearms for protection. “In Seattle, I know that the average response time when a 911 call is made to law enforcement is less than five minutes. I was a county commissioner for 12 years, and I can tell you that the average response time in Mason County is 45 minutes. It’s a very rural area, with lakes and rivers to get around, lots of timberland – so people feel much differently about firearms.”
Sheldon said the right to keep and bear arms is a bedrock principle for the people of his district. “I can’t vote for this because I feel it is a diminishing of our Second Amendment rights,” he said.