I see by your outfit that you are:
a) a cowboy
b) a Black Panther
c) a gun-toting Starbucks soccer mom
So-called "open carry" advocates around the country are asserting their right to carry guns in the open, not unlike the days of the old West. You might be interested to know that Washington and Oregon are deemed to be "open-carry-friendly" states, with liberal (meaning permissive) gun laws, while Alaska sets a kind of "open carry" gold standard (no surprise for Palin country). You might also be interested to know that Washington is more gun-friendly, legally speaking, than Texas.
That's because gun rights are strongly supported in Washington's constitution, and the fact that it is legal here, generally speaking, to carry a gun on your hip or a rifle over your shoulder, in the open, without a permit. Gun toters should feel more at home in the land of the Uptight Seattleite than the Lone Star state.
Seattle is in a legal battle to ban guns from city parks, a move started by former mayor Greg Nickels and continued by his successor Mike McGinn. But the ban is apparently in violation of state law. Meanwhile, "open carry" activists are strapping on heat around the country and wandering into their neighborhood Starbucks to assert their rights. Their goal is to "normalize" and "mainstream" carrying guns in the open.
Starbucks, controversially, has said it will not ban guns. Apparently, it's not okay to go barefoot and shirtless, but wearing a six-gun is fine. The company says it intends to follow state laws. Gun opponents have tried to organize a boycott of Starbucks over its gun policy, and many are using it to remind us that the coffee's better at Peet's, which does ban "open carry" of firearms.
But Washington's law has some complexities that are worth thinking about. Technically, we're an open-carry state, though you do need a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun in your pocket, purse, or car. The complexity is, there is a state law (RCW 9.41.270) that also says it is illegal to "...carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons."
So, the key to whether you can open carry seems to be how other people feel about your having a gun in the open, and law enforcement's judgment on that. This is reminiscent of the aggressive panhandling debate taking place now in Seattle: when is the lined crossed on intimidation? Is panhandling okay everywhere except near ATMs and parking meters? How much of a factor in your breaking the law is someone else's sense of fear? Is a petite young woman going to have the same fear factor as a burly linebacker? Can such laws be fairly enforced?
Open carry advocates argue that wearing guns in the open is not meant to intimidate, but to educate by letting the public know that, hey, your neighbors are armed, and they're just middle class folks like you. There's nothing wrong with carrying a holstered handgun on your hip. Estimates are that there are over 250,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Washington, so carrying guns isn't a fringe activity. Yes, soccer moms do it. Displaying your guns might, for some, seem reassuring, or a way to bring gun owners out of the closet.
On the other hand, alarm is partly a matter of circumstance. If in rural areas you see a guy walking down the road carrying a rifle, you're not likely to be intimidated: he's a hunter or farmer who needs the gun for some kind of business, like shooting varmints. On the other hand, if a cop sees you hanging out on some drug-infested corner of Belltown at night carrying a loaded shotgun, you might feel you're invoking your right to self-defense, but the cop is likely going to arrest you because, in such circumstances, the cop's alarm about your intentions would be legit.
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