Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib of Washington singled himself out as the only WA elected official who was absent from the state’s annual State of State ceremony. That means he wasn’t there to hear his fellow Democrat Governor Jay Inslee deliver the 2019 State of the State address. Again, every other statewide elected official was in attendance.
What, you ask, is the justification for this faux pas? Firearms, of course. Lt. Gov. Habib was protesting the fact that in the House gallery, where all of two-and-a-half rows of seats were open to the public, lawful concealed carry is allowed.
Initially, the lieutenant governor’s staff asked if both galleries could be closed. When that was rejected, they sought unsuccessfully to have some type of metal detection equipment deployed outside the entry doors.
The chief clerk’s office did increase security though it was clear no specific threat existed.
A statement issued Tuesday afternoon from the chief clerk’s office expressed regret at Habib’s decision not to preside. It noted that state clearly allows properly licensed individuals to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the House galleries.
“Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action,” the statement read. “Safety is always a concern, but so is the transparency of the Legislature’s work on behalf of the people.”
Mr. Habib has had a gripe with concealed carriers in his state for a while now. In November of 2017, he signed an order to ban all firearms from the Senate’s public gallery. (For the record, open carry had already been banned in both chambers in 2015). At the time, house Rep. John Lovick, a supporter of Habib and former state trooper, said of the order: “When it comes to safety, we not only want to be safe, we want to feel safe.”
So, yesterday, since Habib’s order applied to the Senate only and not to the House gallery, and since the State of State ceremony took place in the House chamber, Habib didn’t feel safe attending.
According to the Herald, “Habib, who is blind, said he is concerned the House policy leaves him and every other elected official in attendance more vulnerable.”
If this looks like sheer political theater to you, your vision is 20-20. Not only is it political theater; it’s bad political theater, political theater in which a high-ranking state elected official is underhandedly using all the tools at his disposal, including a legitimate disability, to try to infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights.
After signing the order banning concealed guns in the Senate, Haibib said: “The message to members of the public is that — as in the case in countless government buildings around the country, including most statehouses, courthouses all over the place — this is a particular setting where it’s not deemed safe to have weapons. This is in no way a statement about those individuals’ lawful ability to bear arms.”
On the other hand, Dave Workman, spokesman for the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, called Habib’s statement “disingenuous at best, because this absolutely is a statement about those individuals’ lawful ability to bear arms.”
While Habib was absent, Washington’s fully Democrat-controlled state legislature heard the following from its Democrat governor:
While too many in D.C. remain in the grips of the NRA, we’re the state that stands up for common-sense gun-safety reforms. We’ve closed background check loopholes, banned bump stocks and approved protective orders that keep guns away from people in crisis.
By attempting to bar law-abiding, licensed concealed carriers from attending such proceedings at the Capitol, Habib is working to louden the loudly resounding echo chamber that is the Washington state legislature.
We stand with gun owners in the Evergreen State against this ridiculous behavior and hope concealed carriers in particular will attend congressional sessions and voice their opinions to prevent further encroachment on their rights.