Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Washingon State's RKBA Provision

Washington State's RKBA Provision

I was doing a bit of research into Washington State arms law, and I ran into some very interesting stuff about the history of Washington State's right to keep and bear arms provision.  Washington State's current constitution dates from 1889, as does the RKBA provision, Art. I, sec. 24:
The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men. 
The "armed body of men" was a response to the use of Pinkertons as strikebreakers--and Washington State was certainly not going to interfere with union men defending themselves by the law of the jungle.

There was an earlier proposed constitution, the first time that Washington asked for statehood.  The 1878 proposed constitution included Art. V:
Sec. 19. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; but this shall not be so construed as to justify the carrying of concealed weapons.
This is a pretty typical state constitutional provision for the era; guaranteeing a right, but clarifying that it did not protect concealed carry. (Clear implication: some form of carry is protected.)

One of the standard reference works on the Washington State Constitution contains the rather interesting statement that a delegate to the 1889 constitutional convention proposed adding a ban on concealed carry to the proposed arms provision--and his proposal was voted down.  In light of the dominant view of how far the police power extended at the time--and that the proposed 1878 constitution did have a "shall not be construed as to justify" clause, it would be very interesting to examine in detail the debates about this provision at the 1889 convention, and see if the proposal was to constitutionally prohibit concealed carry, or merely to provide that the arms provision did not protect it.  Unfortunately, only the minutes were kept, although much of the debates was apparently published in newspapers of the time.  It does appear that the Oregon and Indiana state constitution rights guarantees are, respectively the father and grandfather of the 1889 Washington constitution.

No comments:

Post a Comment