Washington state will be ground zero for gun rights in November, with two opposing ballot initiatives both concerning background checks.
(Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Initiative 594, backed by gun control groups, would strengthen background checks on gun purchasers to include gun shows and online sales.
On the other hand, Initiative 591, backed by pro-gun groups, would prohibit background checks by the state unless they conform with federal background check laws. The same initiative would also explicitly prohibit “confiscation,” which advocates say is essentially what has occurred in New York and Connecticut where gun registries were established.
“It's possible both could pass, that's what the polls are showing now,” Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue, Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, told TheBlaze. “Conventional wisdom is that then it would go to the courts.”
Gottlieb said that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as “Seattle left-of-center elitists” were expected to dump millions into supporting 594.
Washington is a traditionally liberal state, but as with any off-year election, turnout is key — and pro-gun voters are viewed as more likely to mobilize. The turnout generated by gun ballot measures could have ramifications for Washington state congressional and legislative races this year, Gottlieb said.
On Sunday, Washington's largest newspaper editorial board endorsed the increased background check initiative and opposed the ballot measure supported by the pro-gun groups.
The Seattle Times blasted the anti-background check measure as “wholly inappropriate, unnecessary and potentially a reckless retreat.” Criticizing the ballot language as vague and poorly written, the editorial continued: “The firearm industry and its entrepreneurial forces know their market, so the notion of 'confiscating' guns is immediately mentioned."
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is running the "Yes on 594" campaign, has sent out an email call for supporters to “Send a Message of Support to SPU,” referring to Seattle Pacific University, where a June 5 campus shooting left one dead and two others injured.
On the other side, the Washington Gun Rights website states that Initiative 591 "protects against illegal search and seizure, preventing politicians and bureaucrats driven by an anti-rights agenda from depriving citizens of their property without due process. The gun prohibition lobby responsible for draconian anti-civil rights and self-defense laws in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, is now targeting Washington citizens, using money and resources from out of state.”
The site asserts that the measure would keep the state's current background checks in place.
“591 protects background check uniformity and prevents unwarranted intrusion by the state into temporary firearm loans to friends or in-laws,” Washington Gun Rights says. “It stops the state from creating a universal gun registry that could enable future confiscation. Maintaining balance between privacy rights and public safety is what 591 is about.”
If passed, Initiative 591 would make it “unlawful for any government agency to confiscate guns or other firearms from citizens without due process” and “unlawful for any government agency to require background checks on the recipient of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.”
The expanded background check Initiative 594 says it would “apply the currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.”
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility says Initiative 594 is necessary to fix the "loophole" that "allows criminals to buy guns from strangers – in parking lots, on the Internet, and at gun shows – with no questions asked.”
(This story was updated to included a comment from Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue, Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.)
Follow Fred Lucas (@FredVLucas3) on Twitter