With Thursday’s court-mandated changes of the ballot title for Initiative 1639 – the latest gun control scheme from the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility – the fight is on as paid signature gatherers are now hitting the streets to gather what the Everett Herald estimated must be close to 350,000 signatures, while grassroots rights groups are energizing the opposition.
The action comes less than two months after thousands of gun owners rallied in the state capitol steps in Olympia to oppose further restrictions on their right to keep and bear arms, and four months after they testified against such measures before the Legislature. But anti-gunners want more restrictions, and with the new initiative campaign, they’re willing to buy those restrictions, even if it costs millions of dollars, gun owners contend. Here is the court-approved ballot title language:
The message from Second Amendment advocates is simple: Don’t sign the initiative. If the measure fails to qualify with 259,622 valid signatures by July 6, it would mean the Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group will have spent a couple of million dollars for naught. At least, that’s the hope of beleaguered gun owners who see this initiative as yet another attempt by wealthy elitists to erode their rights under the federal and state constitutions, especially for young adults in the 18-20 age group.
Those young voters, who are considered mature enough to enlist in the military and carry all kinds of weapons in foreign lands if necessary are not considered mature enough to purchase a semi-auto modern sporting rifle. For opponents of the initiative, that’s blatant discrimination.
Here is language from the 30-page initiative: “studies show that eighteen to twenty year olds commit a disproportionate number of firearm homicides in the United States and research indicates that the brain does not fully mature until a later age.” If that language were applied to race or gender, it could ignite public outrage, say initiative opponents.
In a statement Thursday, Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, called the court changes to the original ballot title – which had been okayed by the office of anti-gun state Attorney General Bob Ferguson – a “small victory.” He called the initiative language “extremist.”
“The court-altered language is not ideal,” Gottlieb observed, “but it does clarify that I-1639 includes age discrimination and that it criminalizes noncompliance and mandates a waiting period on the purchase of a legal firearm. This measure treats all gun owners, especially young adults, like criminal suspects. In short, Washington prides itself for being against discrimination, except when it comes to gun ownership. Then principle is sacrificed for political correctness, and social prejudice becomes acceptable.”
He also noted that paid signature gatherers, many from out-of-state, were lining up to start circulating the I-1639 petitions because there are bigger bucks to be made from securing signatures for this measure than other initiatives competing for public support.
Two websites have been launched to rally opposition to the measure. The first one to appear this week was SaveOurSecurity.net. The “SOS” movement is led by veteran gun rights activist Phil Watson, and he has rolled up his sleeves for the looming battle.
Thursday evening, the “decline2sign1639” website was up and running following some software glitches.
The media battle against I-1639 has also erupted, over the past weekend in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Writing in that newspaper, Sue Lani Madsen explained:
“Initiative 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.
“Safe storage is defined as a “locked box, gun safe or other locked storage space” but specifically says “nothing in this section mandates how or where a firearm must be stored.” Unsafe storage is not defined, but may result in a Class C felony charge or a gross misdemeanor if a prohibited person takes what doesn’t belong to them and uses it to cause bodily harm.
“Not only a thief but the victim of a thief may be charged with a crime. The victim has an alibi as long as the theft is reported “within five days of the time the victim of the unlawful entry knew or reasonably should have known that the firearm had been taken.”
“That hunting rifle in the back of the closet could be missing for a couple of years before anyone notices. We don’t apply this logic to victims of car theft when the stolen car is used to kill, maim or cause property damage. 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.”
Initiative opponents will encourage voters to read the 30-page measure before signing. As Gottlieb noted, “The devil is always in the details.”
On Thursday, an email fund raising blast went out to possible I-1639 supporters, seeking donations and insisting that, “If I-1639 passes, we will save lives from mass shootings.”
Opponents will remind voters that the anti-gun-rights lobbying group behind this measure was also responsible for Initiative 594 in 2014. At the time, that so-called “universal background check” measure was also pushed on the promise that it would save lives.
However, in 2016, Washington State saw the triple slaying of teens at a Mukilteo party by an individual who passed a background check. A few months later, another individual who took a small-caliber rifle from his step-father killed five people at the Cascade Mall in Burlington.
According to Seattle Police Department data, there were 18 homicides in 2016, of which 11 involved firearms, and 27 slayings last year, of which 18 involved firearms.
According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, in 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available), there were 195 murders in Washington State, and 127 of those involved firearms. Only 11 of those victims were killed with rifles of any kind, including the semi-auto rifles at the center of the I-1639 debate, including the eight mentioned above. That same year, 19 people were stabbed to death and 38 were killed with “other weapons.”
Initiative backers have less than a month to collect their signatures. The next four weeks promise to be interesting.