Open Carry is Legal. But is it Safe?
While one needs a license to carry a concealed firearm, Washington residents DO NOT need a license to openly carry a firearm. The only restriction is that openly carrying a firearm is prohibited in all areas where concealed carry is prohibited. In addition, many private businesses may prohibit open carry on their premises. Finally, even though legal, one cannot open carry a firearm in any manner which manifests "an intent to intimidate another or warrant alarm for the safety of other persons."
Open carrying is a complicated matter in Washington state. While certainly there are communities around the country where the sight of a person openly carrying a firearm is an everyday occurrence. In Washington state, especially the Puget Sound region, that is not the case. The right to free speech does not protect you from the consequences of your speech. Likewise, the right to possess firearms does not protect you from the consequences of how you possess those firearms. Consequently, one must consider what reactions might come with openly possessing a firearm in public places where it is legal, but extremely uncommon.
Lawful and responsible firearms owners know how dangerous firearms can be. But they also have an understanding of when and under what conditions firearms are most dangerous. Those naïve to firearms will often mistake a threat from there mere presence of a gun. If contacted by law enforcement while open carrying, an individual should be polite and cooperative with law enforcement. For more information on what to do if contacted by law enforcement while open carrying, click here.