House passes ban on weapons at school board meetings, ballot counting centers

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Today, the state House passed legislation introduced by Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, to ban carrying or possessing guns and other weapons at city council, county council and school board meetings, as well as at ballot counting centers.

“This bill is about public safety and access to democracy. Guns do not belong at school board meetings, ballot counting locations or local council meetings,” said Senn. “Local officials and election workers deserve to feel safe when serving their communities. And all Washingtonians deserve safe participation in civic engagement without intimidation and fear.”

“I strongly support this bill because it helps keep our election workers safe, protecting our democracy on its most local level in the same way we protect our courthouses and public schools,” said Rep. April Berg, D-Mill Creek, a school board member and cosponsor of the legislation.

The bill, HB 1630, prohibits open carry at city council and county council meetings, and both open and concealed carry at school board meetings and ballot counting centers.

HB 1630 would make violating these restrictions a gross misdemeanor.

More than 80% of local elected officials have experienced harassment, threats and violence, with incidents getting worse since the start of the pandemic, according to a national survey.

“Guns have no place in our civil discourse,” continued Senn, a former city councilmember. “Nobody needs a gun to make their voice heard in our democracy, and nobody should face armed intimidation.”