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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Tense Moments As Gun Rights Rally Spills Into Washington House Gallery

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
Jason McMillon was threatened with removal and arrest from the Washington House gallery for the ''tactical'' manner he was carrying his military-style pistol.

Guns are allowed in the Washington state Capitol, but state law makes it illegal to carry a firearm in a manner designed to intimidate.

That made for some tense moments Thursday in the spectator gallery of the Washington House.

It happened following a gun-rights rally on the steps of the Washington statehouse. A dozen or so armed protestors gathered in the House gallery. One man had his finger near the trigger of a loaded pistol.

That’s when State Patrol Lieutenant Mike Eggleston stepped in.

“That’s a tactical carry of a weapon and this is a place of government,” Eggleston said to Jason McMillon. McMillon argued that he couldn’t safely sling the pistol over his shoulder.

“I’m not going to ask you again,” Eggleston said. “Then you’re going to have to leave.”

As McMillon continued to argue, the Lieutenant made it clear he was risking arrest.

"We don't want to arrest anybody, but we will,” he said.

Finally, McMillon stuffed the large pistol into the inside pocket of his overcoat. McMillon said his intent was not to intimidate.

“I understand what they’re getting at,” he said. “But the simple fact of the matter is I served 20 years in the military, I know how to handle my weapon.”

The earlier gun rally was to protest Washington’s new voter-approved background check law.

Several gun-related measures are expected to be introduced in the Washington legislature this year. Already, House Republicans are sponsoring a bill to prohibit the state from keeping a database of individuals who have applied to purchase a pistol.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."