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CKF&R looks to change its public weapons policy
It was just a small sign posted outside of the meeting room at Station 41. It read “No Weapons.”
But it has caused the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue District to revamp its weapons policy so as to not be at cross hairs with Washington state law.
“Somebody questioned the district meeting rooms policy,” said Chief Scott Weninger. “It was a reminder to everybody that the policy needs to reflect state law.”
Fire Commissioners discussed the change in the policy last week. The matter will be on the agenda for a vote June 9.
According to Weninger, the district has a policy that applies to all employees, that prohibits dangerous weapons being stored or carried by employees in fire stations, work sites, buildings, property, apparatus storage areas or dorms.
Additionally, the district has a policy on its meeting rooms, all of which can be used by public groups for meetings and events.
Groups such as the Central Kitsap Community Council (CKCC) use the meeting room at the administrative building at 5300 Newberry Hill Road, for monthly meetings.
The district’s rules and regulations for use of those meeting rooms by the public prohibits firearms, as well as alcohol, controlled substances, open flames, profane language, boisterous conduct, gambling and animals, except guide dogs.
Recently, that policy came into question, according to Weninger, because by prohibiting firearms, it violates state law.
The district’s legal advisor Ken Bagwell said in situations like this, state law must be followed and he told commissioners that the meeting rooms policy needed to be changed.
“The state has an open carry law,” he said. “That’s what needs to be followed here.”
Washington is an “open carry” state for firearms which means a person may carry a firearm in an exposed holster without any kind of permit unless there is something that makes it specifically illegal; for example, carrying a weapon onto primary or secondary school grounds or other prohibited places, or carrying a weapon by most felons or anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime. But Bagwell said fire stations are not among those places.
Additionally, to carry a concealed weapon in Washington, the gun owner has to have a permit.
Because Washington has a state preemption statue which reads that “no city, town, county, or other municipality can restrict your right to keep and bear arms more than the state,” (RCW 9.41.290) the district’s policy of no weapons in meeting rooms has to be changed, Bagwell said.
But he said, as an employer, the district can still prohibit firearms being carried by employees, just not by outside users.
Weninger said the policy that prohibits employees from carrying guns will remain the same.
Natalie Bryson, president of the CKCC, said the group will continue to meet at the fire administrative building.
“Many of our members and visitors would be uncomfortable to see someone with a gun at one of our meetings,” she said. “But if that’s the law, it’s what we need to follow.”