Abbarno joins other House Republicans in voting against bill restricting Second Amendment rights

After lengthy debate Sunday afternoon on the virtual House floor, a bill that would prohibit the open carry of firearms and other weapons within 250 feet of permitted demonstrations, rallies and other events passed the House, 57-40, with Republicans voting no.

House Republicans offered 16 amendments to uphold Second Amendment constitutional rights and reduce the impact of Senate Bill 5038. Only three Republican amendments were accepted, including one by Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia. 

Amendment 471, offered by Abbarno, specifies that the prohibition is within 250 feet of the perimeter of permitted demonstrations.

“This bill is too broadly written and does not specifically define exactly what the 250-feet prohibition means. Where does the 250-feet prohibition begin? Is it a walkable 250 feet? Or is it as the crow flies?” Abbarno asked during floor debate. “If the demonstration or gathering ebbs and flows, does our constitutional right to freely travel and our Second Amendment right also ebb and flow with the permitted crowd? It’s truly an ambiguous bill and could make it so any law-abiding gun owner walking peacefully with an openly-holstered weapon could be charged with a gross misdemeanor crime.”

Abbarno noted that private businesses and private property are included in the definition of public place. He questioned other scenarios of concern, such as if a permitted gathering is upstairs in a restaurant meeting room and a law-abiding citizen is open-carrying in a downstairs restaurant; or if a person is carrying with permission on private property and a permitted event is adjacent to that property.

“This bill goes far beyond protests or demonstrations. It includes any permitted gathering. What about families at fishing derbies with knives in a public park where there is a permitted gathering, such as a birthday party?” Abbarno questioned. “There are law-abiding citizens that carry firearms and knives as a matter of history and tradition. And, there are law-abiding citizens that openly carry for safety.

“Some may say these scenarios presented during debate are ridiculous. However, when legislation threatens to restrict constitutional rights, including the right to freely travel and to openly exercise Second Amendment rights, and when legislation makes our families less safe and less able to protect themselves, we must consider all situations that take freedom away. And we must provide certainty to the public,” said Abbarno.

Amendment 471 was adopted by a vote of 90-0.

Abbarno also offered Amendment 468 that would have entirely removed the prohibition on openly carrying a firearm or weapon within 250 feet of permitted demonstrations. This amendment was rejected, 40-53.

The measure returns to the Senate for concurrence.


Washington State House Republican Communications