Don’t Senate and House members have a Constitutional right not to be killed by high-power military assault weapons as they work at the state Capitol?

Share story

State Sen. Phil Fortunato’s Op-Eddefending the “right” to bring high-powered military assault weapons into the Senate and House galleries in Olympia, just above the floor of the House and Senate chambers, is a bad idea [“Banning guns in Senate gallery is symbolism over substance,” Jan. 3, Opinion].

The Las Vegas shooter, up until the time he fired the first shot, was to all outward appearances a seemingly law-abiding citizen, having legally purchased firearms and ammunition and exercising his Second Amendment rights. Then he shot 546 people from a distance of 1,638 feet away, in the dark, from the 32nd floor of a hotel. The Vegas shooter killed 58 people in the dark. We have 49 Senators, 100 times closer, in a fully lighted chamber.

Sen. Fortunato says that knives, vehicles and pressure cookers pose an equal, if not greater risk. They don’t.

I was in law enforcement for more than 25 years, and as a detective, I served hundreds of search warrants. I agree that a knife, in close combat, is a dangerous weapon. But knives pose little threat in the Capitol galleries, where the best you could do is to throw one, or jump 20 feet to the ground before attempting to assault someone. Vehicles cannot get to this location, either.

The Las Vegas shooter, with no criminal record, fired some 90 rounds in 10 seconds. At closer range, such as the Capitol galleries, many individual bullets would kill multiple people. I know these chambers well, and a person could imperil the lives of many state senators and House members.

This is a preposterous risk. Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib is correct about banning guns from the Senate gallery. The House should follow suit. There also should be metal detectors at a reasonable distance from the House and Senate galleries where folks can be screened and weapons banned.

Sen. Fortunato says this is unworkable, but millions of Washington citizens are screened all the time at sporting events, courthouses and other venues on a daily basis, and none of the problems he mentioned exist.

The most conservative Supreme Court Justices have affirmed that the Second Amendment is subject to reasonable regulation. And even if it were not, how does the Second Amendment supersede or surpass the Constitutional protection for anyone’s own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness?

Don’t senators and House members have a Constitutional right not to be killed by high-power military assault weapons? Are their rights somehow less than those of the Las Vegas shooter who legally bought and transported his high-powered military assault weapons, with which he shot 546 people? I respectfully disagree with Sen. Fortunato.