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Lt. governor skips Inslee's State of the State speech over gun fears

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib (Official Wash. state government photo)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech because he said he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons into the joint session of the Legislature.

The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported that Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib said no threats had been made, but he was concerned because the state House of Representatives, where the speech took place, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons.

The House Chief Clerk's Office later issued a statement saying, in part: "We regret that Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib decided not to preside over the joint legislative session today.

The statement noted that the governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the commissioner of public lands, other statewide elected officials, state Supreme Court justices, foreign dignitaries, agency directors, and legislators all attended, and that adequate security measures were in place.

The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and the Senate bans concealed guns as well. But the House allows properly licensed concealed carry permit holders to carry concealed weapons in its gallery.

"Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action," said the statement from the House Chief Clerk's Office. "Safety is always a concern, but so is the transparency of the Legislature’s work on behalf of the people."

But Habib, who is blind, said he is concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable.

Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint session in Habib's absence.

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