Educator: Self-defense laws top issues for gun-permit holders

By Allison Arthur of the Leader
Posted 2/2/16

What most people with concealed-pistol permits seem to want to know about the law, says attorney and educator Tom Brotherton, is what he calls self-defense use.

Or, to be more specific, when you …

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Educator: Self-defense laws top issues for gun-permit holders


What most people with concealed-pistol permits seem to want to know about the law, says attorney and educator Tom Brotherton, is what he calls self-defense use.

Or, to be more specific, when you can and when you can't use a weapon to defend yourself.

In giving a class recently in Quilcene, Brotherton said, he had to tell one woman that she couldn't shoot a neighbor who was trying to kill her dog.

“You need to be in imminent danger. You catch someone in your house, and he has a stick and he sees you and he runs, there's no danger,” he said. “Trying to explain imminent danger can be hard.”

Brotherton also likes to tell people that if someone throws an egg at them, they should throw an egg back – not resort to pulling out their pistol.


There are many intricacies to the open-carry law, which can be tricky to navigate, Brotherton said.

At that recent class, Brotherton said, almost all of the 41 attending were not new pistol permittees.

“All of the questions were from experienced people. I didn't get any from newbies,” he said.

Brotherton shared a few interesting legal tidbits that people may not know.

For example, it's a crime to carry a concealed pistol while on U.S. Postal Service–owned property.

In Quilcene, the postal service rents space from Wally Peterson, who owns the property. So, it's OK to leave your pistol in your glove compartment there and go in to get your mail.

But in Sequim, the U.S. Postal Service also owns the parking lot, so it's not OK to do it there. Apparently, there was a case in which a police officer knew the law, saw a man put his pistol in his glove compartment while in the parking lot, confronted him and arrested him. The man was convicted, Brotherton said.


For those with concealed-gun permits, navigating from one state to another is also tricky, because some states accept the rules Washington has and have reciprocal agreements; other states do not.

“[Washington's pistol permit is] honored by Idaho, but not by Oregon, because Oregon requires that before you carry, you take a safety class, and Washington doesn't,” he said. Washington's carry permit is accepted in 30 states, he said.

And then there are rules about taking guns onto school property.

“You are not allowed to carry a gun on school property, and you can lose your permit and go to jail. But you are allowed to drive on school property to pick up or drop off a child,” Brotherton said.

It's OK to take a concealed pistol into a church or park, but don't do it if the park or stadium is playing music and there are more than 1,500 people gathered, he said.

“If there's a music festival of 1,500 [people attending], it's not OK, but at a boat festival with 1,500, it's OK,” said Brotherton. And no, there's no explanation for why the law was written that way, but it is the law.

And you can take that pistol with you into city hall, but not a building with a courtroom, such as the Jefferson County Courthouse, which has a sign out front asking people to deposit their weapons in a locked box before they enter.

It's not OK to take a concealed pistol into a store that sells marijuana or anyplace else where minors are prohibited.

And you can't brandish a gun to scare people. There's a rule against that, too.

Brotherton also reminds gun owners that if they are stopped by police officers who want to search their car, to tell those officers that they have a permit for a concealed weapon. He said such information should show up when accessed by the police dispatcher, but if a dispatcher is busy, he or she may not advise the officer who stopped the driver/gun owner that the driver is licensed to carry.


Brotherton said he doesn't expect to need to use his pistol ever. But if he needs it, it's there.

“As long as I'm as safe as possible, all I'm doing is preparing for the random events that I can't avoid,” he said.

He calls a handgun a “tool of last resort,” and notes in his PowerPoint presentation that the gun is a “great self-defense equalizer,” but that it also “places you in the position of judge, jury and executioner – all in a matter of seconds.”

That said, Brotherton added that he believes people should take a safety class and know the law, much as drivers must take a test to prove they know the law and can actually drive safely.


Brotherton is to offer another class on the law in September in Brinnon. He can be reached by email at Brotherton isn't the only NRA-approved educator in Jefferson County.

John Ebner also teaches classes on gun safety at the Jefferson County Sportsmen's Association. See

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides hunter education classes. Go online to


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