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WA – GUN POLITICS – In The Wake Of Insurrection, Washington Lawmakers Look For Options To Derail Ad Hoc Militias

In the wake of anti-government mobs invading the U.S. Capitol and armed demonstrators gaining access to the grounds of the Washington Governor’s Mansion on Wednesday, state lawmakers are considering new restrictions on armed groups operating in public. Three Percent of Washington, a far-right paramilitary organization, had announced plans to occupy the Legislative Building here in advance of the Legislature convening next Tuesday. But the group on Thursday canceled those plans after the incursions onto government property in D.C. and Olympia. Even before this week’s events, key legislators said they would consider a handful of bills tightening state legal restrictions on groups carrying weapons in public. Their moves aim to address the proliferation of assault-rifle-carrying vigilantes who have become increasingly commonplace at Black Lives Matter demonstrations and on the Capitol steps. State Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, is preparing to introduce legislation she contends would be both constitutional and helpful in invigorating Washington’s longstanding bans on private militias. Washington, like many states, has laws against forming private military organizations. But police rarely enforce the laws, in part because the statutes are widely viewed by police and prosecutors as InvestigateWest reported last month. Racial justice demonstrators spent months voicing concerns about intimidation and the danger of mass violence to little result, even as some armed groups have turned increasingly belligerent across the Northwest. Wednesday’s insurrection in Washington, D.C. and brief standoff outside the Washington governor’s mansion overshadowed smaller, earlier anti-government actions; in December, for example, far-right protesters broke into the Oregon State Capitol building. “I think people are looking to the Legislature like, ‘How can this stand? How are you okay with people following around peaceful demonstrators with weapons drawn?’” Senn said. “We need to protect our citizens. We need to protect the First Amendment. We need to protect democracy.”  [full article]

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