Battleground Northwest: Anti-gun initiative campaign begins in WA


A new initiative in Washington proposes to prevent young adults from purchasing modern sporting rifles like this Ruger semi-auto. (Dave Workman)

Weeks after gun prohibitionists in Portland launched an initiative effort to ban the sale of so-called “assault weapons” in Oregon, a Seattle-based and well-funded gun control lobbying organization has started gathering signatures to put an anti-gun measure on the November ballot in neighboring Washington.

Initiative 1639 – with ballot title language approved by a Thurston County Superior Court judge on Thursday – is now on the streets. Paid signature gatherers are likely to lead the effort, but they have to hustle. The billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility must collect 259,622 valid signatures by July 6, which the Everett Herald estimates will require that they’ll have to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 350,000 signatures to make that happen.

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While the Oregon effort has been interrupted by a state Supreme Court challenge, the Washington gun control campaign was stalled by the court challenges to the ballot title. A private citizen, Glen Morgan, challenged the language with support from the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Second Amendment Foundation. Another challenge was lodged by the National Rifle Association.

Alliance CEO Renee Hopkins told the Everett Herald, “We’re confident we’ll be able to gather what we need.”

That’s likely to cost some big dollars, but the Alliance already has more than $2 million in its war chest, courtesy of billionaires Paul Allen – owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers – and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer. If the measure qualifies for the November ballot, expect several million more dollars to come from other wealthy elitists, including billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his Everytown for Gun Safety lobbying organization.

On the other side, grassroots gun rights activists are digging in. They are already encouraging Washington citizens to not sign the petition. That effort is being spearheaded by Pierce County resident Phil Watson, who is leading the “Save Our Security” (S.O.S.) campaign.

A second effort is being mounted by the “decline2sign1639” group, which was launched Thursday following the court hearing in Olympia that required a change in the ballot title language.

Here’s what the original ballot title, okayed by the office of anti-gun Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, said:

“This measure would require enhanced background checks, training, and waiting periods for sales or delivery of semiautomatic assault rifles; criminalize certain storage and unauthorized use; impose age limitations; and enact other firearm-safety requirements.”

Here’s the revised language:

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, issued a statement following the court decision.

“We’re happy the court made changes that at least somewhat clarify what this extremist measure really would do,” he said. “The devil is always in the details.”

Gottlieb and other Second Amendment advocates were troubled when Ferguson endorsed the initiative several weeks ago. He was concerned that bias played a role in the approval of the original ballot title language.

In addition to Morgan, other people are explaining their opposition in print. The Spokane Spokesman-Review published an opinion piece by Sue Lani Madsen that details concerns of Evergreen State gun owners. She maintains that I-1639 “proposes new laws about safe storage, the kind of laws that increase disrespect for the law. The proposed rules are vague, unenforceable and unlikely to change culture around safe gun storage practices.”
She also notes that victims of gun theft could be turned into criminals by the language of this measure.

“We don’t apply this logic to victims of car theft when the stolen car is used to kill, maim or cause property damage,” Madsen writes. “We don’t apply this logic to the storage of household chemicals or prescription drugs or alcohol or marijuana edibles, or any number of dangerous items we live with every day.

The initiative would, opponents note, prohibit young adults ages 18-20 from purchasing so-called “assault rifles” and require a ten-day waiting period, plus training, for anyone who does buy a semi-automatic modern sporting rifle. There is also a fee, which opponents assert is a tax on the exercise of a constitutional right.

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