Open carry in Bellevue Washington

Son James lives in Bellevue. From the sidewalk in front of my office in Redmond I could throw a rock across the street into Bellevue. So how the police deal with guns is an important issue to me. I just ran across this training memo for Bellevue Police on open carry. An excerpt:

It has recently come to our attention that a group calling itself, “Pacific Northwest Open Carry” and with a spokesman named Lonnie Wilson, has an agenda that deals with the peaceable open carrying of a handgun in a holster. He says that while doing his research to write an informational bulletin for the public and for law enforcement, he asked a number of BPD officers if it was legal to carry a handgun in public, in the open, in a holster. He says he received a variety of answers, ranging from, it is legal, to, it is a felony, to, you will be stopped and arrested for brandishing.

As a refresher, the Corporals will go over the following:

1. Washington is an “open carry” state for firearms. This means a person may carry a firearm in an exposed holster unless there is something that makes it specifically illegal. For example, carrying a weapon onto school grounds or other prohibited places or carrying a weapon by most convicted felons or anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime.

2. Unlawful carrying or display. RCW 9.41.270 occurs when the person carries or displays a weapon in a manner under circumstances at a time and place that manifests alarm for the safety of persons or with an intent to intimidate. This is something more than just walking around with an exposed firearm. If there is a dispute for example and one person, while angry, displays the weapon to scare the other person.

3. Carrying without a Concealed Weapons Permit, RCW 9.41.050, occurs when a person carries a CONCEALED pistol on his person and does not have a CWP. A person with a CWP can carry a firearm in a vehicle without having the weapon on his person.

I knew it was legal in Washington but not all the cops are aware and certainly a lot of the general public is going to see open carry as cause for alarm. I don’t like confrontations and being hassled by cops even if I’m in the right is something I avoid. But there have been times when I have left work, gone to James’ place, had dinner with him, put my gun on (IWB holster) and without a coat to cover the gun walked to back my car. I would mostly cover the gun with my arm as I walked, it was usually dark, with virtually no one in the parking lot but I still worried a little bit about alarming someone and getting some police attention.

This memo eases my mind considerably. I’ll start opening carrying more in James’ parking lot and maybe discreetly when in a restaurant booth where it’s inconvenient to conceal it.


15 thoughts on “Open carry in Bellevue Washington

  1. Lonnie Wilson should be commended for his efforts on this. He has been doing an excellent job of educating the police on open carry.

  2. I work in Bellevue near 148th (the divisor between Redmond and Bellevue) and while my workplace prohibits me from carrying, I generally carry when I go to lunch at nearby establishments. In the Spring and Summer when it’s warmer, I openly carry (I would definitely consider myself an open carry advocate, and I visit frequently). I don’t spend much time in downtown Bellevue, but I have never had any issues in the areas of Redmond/Bellevue that I normally visit. In fact, just last Friday I open carried in the Arby’s down the street, following a lunchtime range outing at Wade’s. I’ve carried openly in the Sears a few times, and in the Fred Meyer and Subway many times.

    As someone who open carries in public quite frequently I can confidently say that 90% of the time nobody even notices. Most people see what they expect to see, and few expect to see a sidearm. On the occasions that someone does notice, I have generally found that it generates curiosity and interest, rather than a 911 call. I relish the occasions when people ask me about my pistol, because it gives me a chance to educate them about the law, their rights, and the fact that gun owners are “normal” people too. My openness about carrying has allowed me to introduce several people to firearms and shooting, and has prompted two coworkers to get their permits and start carrying.

    I would say that you shouldn’t feel uneasy about carrying in Bellevue (or most anywhere else, for that matter). While there’s a slim chance that you’ll get to have a nice chat with law enforcement, there’s also a fair chance that you’ll get to educate a fellow citizen on how to protect themselves and exercise their rights.

  3. While I largely track with Grant and Joe on this, I can’t feel as easy about the topic. What you might do is give a ‘fellow citizen’ a chance to exercise their perceived right to take away your right to carry altogether.

    I fully support open carry and consider CC/permitting to be an erosion of my right to carry. Nevertheless I have CC permits in both WA and UT. I urge anyone considering open carry in WA to be very aware and situationally prepared for challenge. For instance, Costco has a reputation for being extremely anti-carry, and the open carry folks I know don’t tweak them lest they develop a corporate policy of restricting carry altogether. Which would mean members having to choose between their Constitutional rights, and shopping there. (Not a hard choice, but still.)

    If anyone tried open carrying here in the tie-dyed/magic-pixie/Lexus Liberal capitol of the Wet Side, i.e., Olympia, it’s likely that the cops would be phoned post haste by one of the pacifist aggressives. There are a few places in the city where it’s known to be OK, and the open carry activists have done wonderful work.

    But in other places they would be victimized, like around the incredibly oppressive campus of The Evergreen State College, where a minority of anti-gun faculty and their hand-picked student mouthpieces determine for everyone else that all guns are bad and scary and should be banned from campus.

    The state Senate floated funds to support all WA public college/university campuses in assessing and upgrading their campus safety systems. Evergreen campus police floated their deep concern that they are not equipped to respond to a shooter on campus. They have only service pistols, which are not only useless but also dangerous in such a situation. Response time by the county sheriff’s office would be a minimum of 30 minutes for an individual officer, and 60-90 minutes for a SWAT team. VA Tech happened in about 20 minutes.

    Thus the Evergreen campus police requested purchase of several AR15s and training. While a campus poll showed faculty and staff agreed 2:1 that this was a reasonable proposal and supported it just as they agreed with, for instance, earthquake retrofitting or 911 phone system enhancements, a handful of anti-gun professors demanded public hearings on only the AR15 purchase. Then wired both the committee and the process with knee-jerk anti’s to come up with the conclusion that of all the professional assessments of campus safety, the only one that should be selectively rejected was the campus police’s. The administration should have had more spine and said, for example, that if ONE provision of the security enhancements was subject to this scrutiny, they all had to be. But the ideologues had their way.

    The “public comment” on this was painful to witness. The ideologues opposed to firearms knew nothing about the topic, about ballistics, about firearms, about the wide range of skills and judgments that professionals would have to apply in such a nightmare of a situation. They didn’t want to hear facts. It was just ban the guns.

    They were allowed to reject the campus police’s professional opinions on a crucial matter of public safety for reasons of ideology! Imagine if someone said, no, we can’t have earthquake retrofitting because I don’t believe earthquakes happen, because the earth is flat. Or, no, we aren’t going to enhance fire alarm and suppression systems because it’s unlikely fire will happen. Or no, we won’t make the 911 call system stronger because the IT people are militaristic techno-bastards.

    Carrying openly on this campus is out of the question. Carrying concealed and being discovered could lose someone their job. Even though the campus has been the site of riots, arson, rapes, and assaults in the past year to two, plus lots of property crime. Those of us who CC do so in great fear of being discovered and ostracized/fired/disciplined. We don’t want to bring down a lightning bolt of the ideologues determining Evergreen must be a gun-free campus. (Each campus is allowed to determine that for itself, which seems to me a violation of my state and federal rights, but there you have it.) I am supposed to go to work each day, risking rape, assault, property crime, riots, whatever, because a handful of leftist ideologues think I’m more valuable as a victim than a self-protecting person. They would deny me my right to protect myself.

    So please, open carry wherever and whenever you can. But be careful. If you open carry at, say, Evergreen, you just might cost us all the right to CC, or cost us our jobs when our concealment is blown. By the way, I’m an ultra-liberal person, also an adamant RKBA person. What’s happening at Evergreen is Stalinism/Maoism–disarm the masses so they’re less able to fight back.

  4. This is an example of how it is the “threepers” (three percenters, referred to as “extremists” and as an embarrassment by some gun owners) who actually change things. Moderates, by definition, do nothing but cover their butts, leaving the heavy lifting to others.

    Person from Porlock; you say, “They have only service pistols, which are not only useless but also dangerous in such a situation.”

    You also say you carry concealed. What you’re saying then, is that you with your carry pistol, and by extension anyone else with a pistol, is not only useless but actually dangerous in a live shooter situation? I suppose that would apply to regular police also? Please check your premises. It’s nice to have you on board in spirit, but in practice you seem to be contradicting yourself.

    Maybe it was just in the wording. How about saying that pistols are good for close up defense, but for more range and penetration a rifle or carbine would be more effective?

    For that matter, we supposedly had a guy at Fairchild AFB, IIRC, who took out a live shooter at 100 yards several years ago, using a 9 mm service pistol. Useless? No. Dangerous? Only to the perp.

    A carbine can be better than a pistol, and sometimes a pistol is better than a carbine, but any gun gun when you need one is always better than nothing.

  5. Several years ago I asked the WA state patrol and the Whitman county sheriff about open carry. The patrol responded that it was illegal and would subject one to arrest and seizure of the firearm. County said it was fine. The patrol is a bunch of goons. But armed goons with lots of backup. Do your own math on it.

    I only open carry in ID, where it was established about 100 years ago by the state supreme court that open carry is legal.

    Anyone know if there are any residency issues for open carry?

  6. I have heard different opinions on open carry from those who carry. Aside from the sheeple panicking, are there any tactical reasons not to open carry. I’ve heard some complain that it lets every one know that you have a gun and that a bad guy might try to take you out first or steal it from you. Any thoughts?

  7. John, I’m getting 403 errors when I try to access those documents:

    You don’t have permission to access /~jhardin/firearms_laws_washington.pdf on this server.

    Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.


    Apache/2.0.54 (Fedora) Server at Port 80

  8. Jason, tactically I think concealed is generally the better option. The less information you give the predators the better. But sometimes it is much more convenient to open carry. I wear a coat for both warmth and concealment when it is cool outside but when I go into a restaurant or movie theater it is a hassle to rearrange things to conceal when I take the coat off.

    For public relations purposes we want to have people carrying openly all the time no one gives gun ownership a second thought. It is for this reason that I support the open carry people. I’m just too timid to do it on my own as a general policy.

  9. Jason,Joe;
    Visit There is only one tactical reasons to not openly carry that I know of. If I believed that I was being specifically stalked or targeted, concealed may be the better option. However, if you are primarily concerned with attacks of opportunity, open carry should prevent them instead of having to draw or use your weapon to end the attack. Deterrance is the primary reason I open carry. My goal is to never have to shoot someone. Therefore, carrying open means that they should see my weapon and go pick on a softer target. Now, As far as getting targeted first / having it taken, there are zero credible reports of it happening. Anywhere. (and all of us over at are looking for them.)


  10. Jason asks, “Are there any tactical reasons not to open carry?”

    You will often hear folks saying that you’ll just be targeted if you OC, but I’d like to know where all the news reports are before I buy that that’s a serious risk.

  11. Open carry is a fine concept. Makes sense, is legal in WA, relieves skinny guys and gals of having to wear baggy clothing, etc.

    Then that concept comes up against reality, and reality’s name is “grabbed gun”. Unless you want to open carry in a Level Three holster, with it’s accompanying bulk and rigidity, you shouldn’t be open carrying.

    If you had the training in defending against gun grabs that I had when I worked as a Deputy Sheriff, you would ALWAYS choose CC if you had the choice. It’s depressing when you are in fine shape and practice for hours the body moves to resist a gun grab, yet the instructor can ALWAYS get the Red Gun out of your Level Three holster. Then you watch the videos of the cons practicing grab-moves in the exercise yards of the State Prisons, and you begin to get the idea.

    If you Open Carry, at a minimum, you should: Develop NO habits (restaurants, coffee stops) that are predictable. ALWAYS open carry in a Level Three holster. Go to a reputable Dojo and have the master specifically instruct you in resisting grabs. Consider NOT charging the weapon (slows you down, but might save your life if yours is grabbed). Remember that guns are for defending you and others, and soapboxes are for shouting out your politics (don’t try to make carrying into a political statement).

    I hope this helps.


  12. Rivrdog,
    I understand that the threat of gun grabs is there, but the reality is that they don’t happen. To the best of my knowledge there are zero documented occurences of it ever happening. Let me specify, I’m talking about someone walking up behind you and taking your weapon out of your holster. Cops get their weapons taken in the act of trying to subdue or arrest someone. I’m not a cop, I’m not going to be grappling with someone. I’m going to be trying to leave, or if I can’t and feel my life is in danger I’m going to shoot.


  13. Joe, please try again. There are a few moments right at website sync that seem to fiddle with the permissions; I’m working on it.

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