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Dueling Gun Laws

Liz Jones

Gun advocates have turned up the heat on Kitsap County. They're challenging a county law that prohibits guns in public parks.


Dozens of gun–toting picnickers gathered in a Silverdale park this weekend, openly wearing their firearms. That's illegal, under a county ordinance. But state law allows gun owners to openly carry firearms in most public places.

Tacoma resident Jonathan Harris helped organized Sunday's picnic. He wants the county to remove its gun ban signs from local parks.

Harris: "We feel it's a bullying move by Kitsap County. That the people who are less educated about the laws will see the signs and think it's illegal, when in fact it is not. So having the signs there is kind of the county bullying educating less educated people into not exercising their rights."

Harris says he openly carries a gun because it's more comfortable, and it can also help deter crime.

Although Harris and others at the picnic openly flouted the county law, local sheriff's deputies made no arrests.

Wilson: "Because we realize it butts heads. It butts up against state law. There's a conflict between the two and state law basically trumps county ordinance."

That's Scott Wilson. He's a spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff's Department. He can't remember any case when the county's gun law has been used. And he admits the county's law is not enforceable.

Wilson: "So we realize this situation – we have received guidance from the Prosecutor's Office on this in the past. It is a law that probably does need to be amended on the books."

Kitsap County Commissioner Charlotte Garrido agrees. She plans to put this issue on the commissioners' agenda soon. That's the first step toward a possible change in the county law.

Meanwhile, Harris and other "open carry" advocates plan to keep up the pressure on Kitsap County. They say that's worked in other areas. Bremerton recently overturned its gun restrictions in city parks. And University Place, near Tacoma, removed the gun ban signs from its parks. Liz Jones, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2009, KUOW

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