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Thread: RCW 9.41.270, a layman's examination.

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    RCW 9.41.270, a layman's examination.

    My purpose here has been to apply ordinary readership skills to an examination of what the legislature meant in writing RCW 9.41.270. My belief is that the law was meant to be understood by anyone with ordinary reading skills but that you may have to read and think carefully to get the full meaning. The focus is on subsection(1) because people who open carry pistols face a certain amount of misunderstanding regarding what .270 means, thus what constitutes illegal behavior in Washington. I begin with an untouched version of RCW 9.41.270, then use a series of tools to sharpen the view of certain phrases by which to examine the intent of the writers. The definition "types - A and B" are my own tool for clarity.

    Washington Constitution, Article 1
    SECTION 24 RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. 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.

    ************************************************** **********************

    RCW 9.41.270
    Weapons apparently capable of producing bodily harm -- Unlawful carrying or handling -- Penalty -- Exceptions.


    (1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.

    (2) Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the person shall lose his or her concealed pistol license, if any. The court shall send notice of the revocation to the department of licensing, and the city, town, or county which issued the license.

    (3) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to or affect the following:

    (a) Any act committed by a person while in his or her place of abode or fixed place of business;

    (b) Any person who by virtue of his or her office or public employment is vested by law with a duty to preserve public safety, maintain public order, or to make arrests for offenses, while in the performance of such duty;

    (c) Any person acting for the purpose of protecting himself or herself against the use of presently threatened unlawful force by another, or for the purpose of protecting another against the use of such unlawful force by a third person;

    (d) Any person making or assisting in making a lawful arrest for the commission of a felony; or

    (e) Any person engaged in military activities sponsored by the federal or state governments.

    [1994 sp.s. c 7 § 426; 1969 c 8 § 1.]

    Notes:
    Finding -- Intent -- Severability -- 1994 sp.s. c 7: See notes following RCW 43.70.540.

    Effective date -- 1994 sp.s. c 7 §§ 401-410, 413-416, 418-437, and 439-460: See note following RCW 9.41.010.

    ************************************************** **********************

    .270 (1) redacted (#1): It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any [weapon] in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.

    "firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm," replaced by "weapon".

    "[C]arry, exhibit, display, or draw" refers to types of actions performed with [weapons]. "Draw" is relatively unambiguous but even so, drawing to "low ready" can have a totally different implied intent from "on target" but is clearly an out of the holster action. The other three terms, "carry, exhibit, [and] display" could all be given a Type A definition (in the holster) or a Type B definition (out of the holster).


    Somebody could construe "carry, exhibit, display" to refer to the simple act of open carry (type A definition). However, this definition would be incorrect. It would mean that the simple act of "bearing arms in defense of himself, or the state" would constitute intent to intimidate or warrant alarm and thus be illegal. The Washington Constitution doesn't affirm concealed carry rights, only the right to "bear" arms, which by the process of elimination means to open carry. Thus, if the type A definition held, RCW 9.41.270 would be unconstitutional on its face.

    "[C]arry, exhibit, display..." refer to certain actions, which, by the nature of the definition you give them could be in certain circumstances threatening or warranting alarm. Thus, in the context of RCW 9.41.270, "display" couldn't mean "carry around in a holster where all can see it", except in very special circumstances (the type A definition), it would have to mean to "grasp in the hand and remove from the holster in preparation for use" (the type B definition) or in other words to "present" or draw the weapon. Similarly, "Exhibit" could mean either "in a holster, visible to all" (A) or "brought out for people to see and take note of" (B). Again, the second meaning would be called for, given the Constitution. "Carry" would necessarily refer to being held in the hand (B) rather than the holster (A) for it to mean anything other than Constitutionally protected activity. Additionally, the very fact that the legislature provided qualifiers proves that they did not intend to restrict open carry in section .270.

    Let's replace "carry, exhibit, display, or draw" with "do something" and see if .270 still makes sense.
    .270 (1) redacted (#2) It shall be unlawful for any person to [do something with a weapon] in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. The meaning isn't substantially changed.

    " n a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place" is a conjunctive phrase, meaning that all the required elements must be present simultaneously for the condition in question to be met. A man loading a pistol at a gun range would hardly raise an eyebrow but might cause considerable comment if done at a coffee house. At the range one might dismiss whoops and shouts with "I guess he finally got one in the black" but at the coffee house one would pay much more attention.

    Each element above has myriad possibilities; in practice one must test actual or hypothetical events against the phrase in question rather than the other way around. There are just too many "what ifs".

    "[T]hat either manifests an intent to intimidate another..." is a phrase worthy of our attention. The key word is "intent"; one must show by his actions that putting fear in another person is his purpose, not an accidental by-product. If a person openly carrying a pistol encounters someone with a phobia of guns and the phobic person screams in fear, this does not demonstrate an intent to intimidate, unfortunate though the occurrence may be. Also note, the intent must be to intimidate, not to inform, educate, or elucidate.


    "...or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons." is another phrase demanding analysis in light of the apparent misunderstanding many have, especially in the police ranks, as to what it means. The real problem many have with the word "warrants" is that they think it synonymous with "causes". It is not. Several dictionaries agree that the concept of justification is present in the definition of the word "warrants" but is absent in the central definition of the word "causes". Note also that what needs to be warranted is alarm, not attention, awareness, or amazement.


    A partial list of phrases, words, or terms that are not in RCW 9.41.270 follows:
    scaring people ("scare" or "scaring" is not to be found in RCW 9.41)
    causes alarm
    causes ("causes" is not found anywhere in RCW 9.41)
    the right to be unafraid
    the right to be free from fear
    brandishing (brandish or brandishing is not anywhere in RCW 9.41)
    making people nervous
    concealed or any definition thereof (except in .270 (2) loss of concealed pistol license for violation and conviction of (1))
    holster or any discussion thereof (not in any part of RCW 9.41)

    MD

    PS Any additional phrases developed by the cops from goodness only knows what source would be appreciated. I can add them in to my master file as time goes on.


    Edited: small changes to the second paragraph beginning with "[C]arry,...":
    remove ", or draw"
    remove any italics
    add "except in very special circumstances" after "carry around in a holster where all can see it".
    add; "Additionally, the very fact that the legislature provided qualifiers proves that they did not intend to restrict open carry in section .270." before "Let's replace 'carry, exhibit, display, or draw' with 'do something'"


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    Somebody could construe "carry, exhibit, display" to refer to the simple act of open carry (type A definition). However, this definition would be incorrect. It would mean that the simple act of "bearing arms in defense of himself, or the state" would constitute intent to intimidate or warrant alarm and thus be illegal. The Washington Constitution doesn't affirm concealed carry rights, only the right to "bear" arms, which by the process of elimination means to open carry. Thus, if the type A definition held, RCW 9.41.270 would be unconstitutional on its face.
    An additional related point to the above section:

    If 9.41.270 was intended to outlaw type A then why is there a qualifying statement at all?

    If ALL carry and display of firearms and other weapons was intended to be illegal then wouldn't section 1 of the statute just read:

    (1) It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm.
    By adding the qualifying phrase the senate made it clear that they intended for it to be entirely legal for weapons to be openly carried in a reasonable and prudent manner.

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    Why is it there are so many "laws" constructed to define how lawful Citizens may act, but very few to actually punish criminal activity?
    When the **** hits the fan, ask yourself: What Would Bugly Do?

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    Regular Member compmanio365's Avatar
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    bugly wrote:
    Why is it there are so many "laws" constructed to define how lawful Citizens may act, but very few to actually punish criminal activity?
    Cause we have gone from a society that punishes the harming of others to a society that controls the actions of the law abiding, and largely ignores those who decide to ignore said laws.

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    Bugly, I have no answer to your question. Not even close.

    arentol, if I understand you correctly, I have an answer, sort of. The idea was presented to me that someone not open carrying a pistol could have an argument with someone else and later return open carrying a pistol. The fact of his now being armed could be seen an implied threat, under the circumstances, even without his presenting the pistol. Unusual, but that's what I had in mind. I think I edited out by mistake a phrase that dealt with possible illegal scenarios where the pistol was not drawn, and their being "unusual". The great thing about .270 is that the entire situation should be taken into account. The bad thing about .270 is that certain people of limited reasoning ability will be doing the taking into account.

    MD

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    compmanio365 wrote:
    bugly wrote:
    Why is it there are so many "laws" constructed to define how lawful Citizens may act, but very few to actually punish criminal activity?
    Cause we have gone from a society that punishes the harming of others to a society that controls the actions of the law abiding, and largely ignores those who decide to ignore said laws.
    compmanio, you're right, of course. Your comment begs the question of why we now control the actions of the law abiding. For that, I have no reasonable rationale. I'm left trying to psychoanalyze the current crop of know-it-alls in political power. I have some ideas but none is very complimentary.

    MD

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    Regular Member compmanio365's Avatar
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    "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Need there be any further explanation than that?

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    compmanio365 wrote:
    "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Need there be any further explanation than that?
    funny how smart Machiavelli was, and how insightful...
    When the **** hits the fan, ask yourself: What Would Bugly Do?

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    Machiavelli was indeed a smart fella; The Prince is full of common sense. Problem is the quote belongs to Lord Acton.

    MD

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    Machoduck wrote:
    Bugly, I have no answer to your question. Not even close.

    arentol, if I understand you correctly, I have an answer, sort of. The idea was presented to me that someone not open carrying a pistol could have an argument with someone else and later return open carrying a pistol. The fact of his now being armed could be seen an implied threat, under the circumstances, even without his presenting the pistol. Unusual, but that's what I had in mind. I think I edited out by mistake a phrase that dealt with possible illegal scenarios where the pistol was not drawn, and their being "unusual". The great thing about .270 is that the entire situation should be taken into account. The bad thing about .270 is that certain people of limited reasoning ability will be doing the taking into account.

    MD
    I wasn't asking a question, I was presenting an ADDITIONAL point that could very well have been included in your OP.

    You are trying to show how the law should be interpreted and why. I am making the point that ANOTHER reason the law, as written, should be interpreted as making it legal to OC is because if the state senate intended for OC to be illegal at all times then the wouldn't have bothered to specify when it is illegal. So the very act of providing the circumstances under which OC is illegal implies that under ALL other circumstances (aside from carrying in prohibited locations) it is legal.

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    arentol wrote:
    Machoduck wrote:
    Bugly, I have no answer to your question. Not even close.

    arentol, if I understand you correctly, I have an answer, sort of. The idea was presented to me that someone not open carrying a pistol could have an argument with someone else and later return open carrying a pistol. The fact of his now being armed could be seen an implied threat, under the circumstances, even without his presenting the pistol. Unusual, but that's what I had in mind. I think I edited out by mistake a phrase that dealt with possible illegal scenarios where the pistol was not drawn, and their being "unusual". The great thing about .270 is that the entire situation should be taken into account. The bad thing about .270 is that certain people of limited reasoning ability will be doing the taking into account.
    MD
    I wasn't asking a question, I was presenting an ADDITIONAL point that could very well have been included in your OP.

    You are trying to show how the law should be interpreted and why. I am making the point that ANOTHER reason the law, as written, should be interpreted as making it legal to OC is because if the state senate intended for OC to be illegal at all times then the wouldn't have bothered to specify when it is illegal. So the very act of providing the circumstances under which OC is illegal implies that under ALL other circumstances (aside from carrying in prohibited locations) it is legal.
    arentol, you're absolutely right. I came to that conclusion on my own once I read your post again after getting more sleep. I'm embarrassed that I didn't come up with it on my own. Oh well; that's one of the reasons for posting in the first place - the responses received. I will try to incorporate your point into the file as seamlessly as I can in the near future. I appreciate your having read my post carefully. After all, this is for all of us when the police decide to have a friendly little encounter with us and start quoting their head grammarian.

    MD



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    Machoduck wrote:
    Machiavelli was indeed a smart fella; The Prince is full of common sense. Problem is the quote belongs to Lord Acton.

    MD
    Indeed, my mistake.
    So, anyway, back to the OP, there is a clause that defines weapons capable of producing "bodily harm". I would think the blatant disregard people have for displaying their automobiles would be grounds for charging a gross misdemeanor, since more people are injured, and indeed killed by those terrible things. It's somewhat ironic that the same people who claim a gun will "go off" by itself have quite possibly had a car in their possession that has had some sort of mechanical failure that could inadvertently injure someone, yet there is no provision in the government to make sure one of those has "safeties" built in (save for the driver's compartment, the outside world is at full risk). Seems the anti's should be focusing on something more sinister than guns, automobiles kill more people than guns, yet the only safety devices in them are intended to protect the operator. Plus, if you "accidentally" kill someone with a car, chances are you can buy another one readily and go right back onto the streets "brandishing" another deadly weapon.
    I say we ban cars..... (that sucks, coming from me, because that's how I make my living, at least I'm not being hypocritical, I can admit my line of work is allowing more people to do dangerous things, but at least when they leave my shop the car is safe, in the right hands....)
    When the **** hits the fan, ask yourself: What Would Bugly Do?

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    Regular Member Machoduck's Avatar
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    arentol, I made the referenced change to the OP; see edit notes. I also added a text file link for downloading. And a big tip of the hat to you for picking up on my omission. The whole point of this examination is to provide our people with the best defense against ignorance and shallow interpretation.

    MD

    eta: cleanup, clarification, and a "thank you".

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    compmanio365 wrote:
    bugly wrote:
    Why is it there are so many "laws" constructed to define how lawful Citizens may act, but very few to actually punish criminal activity?
    Cause we have gone from a society that punishes the harming of others to a society that controls the actions of the law abiding, and largely ignores those who decide to ignore said laws.
    That has been happening since the 1800s the government knows who they control.

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