Gun control Initiative 1639 passed handily in Washington State, leaving Second Amendment activists furious, aiming at least part of their wrath at lethargic gun owners who evidently did not vote, and planning their next moves, which could involve lots of time in court, and lots of money for attorneys.
And in the aftermath, I-1639 is still being portrayed as a “gun safety” measure when, according to opponents, it is no such thing. Gun rights leader Alan Gottlieb called it “30 pages of gun control disguised as gun safety.” He is chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) and founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
The only gun control issue on the ballot anywhere in the United States, the battle against I-1639 didn’t attract a single donation from any firearms company, putting the lie to assertions that “outside money” was helping to fight the scheme. The National Rifle Association donated $200,000, according to the Public Disclosure Commission, while CCRKBA—based in Bellevue—kicked in more, about $246,000 in cash and “in-kind” contributions.
Both the NRA and CCRKBA have tens of thousands of Evergreen State members, so it was their money being spent. On the other hand, according to PDC reports, the New York-based Everytown for Gun Safety contributed $450,000 cash and their Action Fund added another $59,500 “in kind” contribution.
The Seattle-based and billionaire-financed gun prohibition lobby outspent rights groups about 10-to-1, raising more than $5 million.
The far-reaching initiative will strip young adults of their right to buy and possess so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles,” which are so broadly defined as to include self-loading .22-caliber target and hunting rifles, starting Jan. 1. Other tenets of the initiative take effect July 1, 2019, barring a successful court challenge.
Those provisions include:
- Proof of training within the previous five years to buy a semi-auto rifle (critics call this a “literacy test”);
A so-called “secure storage” requirement, while “nothing in this secton;
A so-called “enhanced background check” that includes a waiver of medical privacy;
A $25 fee for paperwork for the check (critics call this a “poll tax”);
Annual background checks on gun owners to determine whether they may still legally possess firearms;
Creation of a new crime: “Community endangerment” that carries criminal penalties up to a Class C felony;
A ten-day waiting period on the sale/transfer of a so-called “semiautomatic assault rifle.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, another measure—this one directed at use of force by police officers—also passed. The state’s rank-and-file law enforcement professionals uniformly opposed I-1639, and their professional organizations opposed Initiative 940. That’s the measure that critics say will literally tie the hands of police officers and sheriffs’ deputies.
I-1639 backers have made no secret that this is just one more step toward what they envision is “common sense gun safety,” to cut down on so-called “gun violence.” Many other states have the citizen initiative process and this sort of thing could be coming to them soon. It will possibly require a court ruling that constitutionally-enumerated rights are not subject to a popular vote before such efforts are ground to a halt.
In the meantime, what has happened in Washington State will likely now be used as a warning to rights activists in other states to be prepared. As CCRKBA’s Gottlieb noted prior to the election, it’s “all hands on deck, battle stations.”