Last month, Tina Podlodowski went gun shopping for the first time in her life. After a few clicks on www.armslist.com, the Craigslist of guns, Podlodowski was soon meeting a seller in a Shoreline parking lot. For $300, she walked away with a 9-mm Beretta, no questions asked.
Podlodowski, a former Seattle City Council member and gun control advocate, was curious how hard it would be to buy a gun without submitting to a background check. The answer: too easy. “I could have been anybody and they could have been anybody,” she said.
Gun control is shaping up to the next big political fight in Washington. If all goes as expected, the November 2014 ballot will feature two gun-related initiatives. Initiative 594, sponsored by a new group called Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, would expand gun background checks to cover private sales, including those at gun shows, with the cost borne by the buyer. Gifts and transfers among immediate family members would be exempt.
In response, Second Amendment advocates filed Initiative 591, which would prevent such background checks. Combined, they have already raised a combined $1.9 million, but that’s really just the start. The donor list to I-594 is a whos-who of wealthy donors (among the last names giving five figures: Nick Hanauer, Shirley, Connie Ballmer, Kenneth Alhadeff, Jim Sinegal). Public radio reporter Austin Jenkins noted on Northwest News Network another bold-faced name with two $25,000 contributions: Bill and Melinda Gates.
On the other side of the debate will be groups like the 650,000-member Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, which recently announced in the Seattle Times it would host a “Guns Save Lives Day” on Dec. 14 — the anniversary of last year’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The National Rifle Association, according to the Seattle Times, spent more on local candidates in Washington than any other state last year. No coincidence, since I-594’s background check provisions were narrowly defeated in the state Legislature.
As a practitioner of the First Amendment, I love my Constitutional rights. I’ve shot handguns, I’ve hunted and I owned, with my brothers, a .22-caliber rifle as a kid. I have nothing against collectors.
But arguments against reasonable restriction on gun purchases – assuring that a buyer is neither a felon nor someone with a serious psychiatric history – seem to quickly lead to crackpot conspiracy theories. Background checks become confiscation, and confiscation become Obama’s concentration camps (for fun, Google “background check confiscation Obama”).
If I-594 passes, Podlodowski and the gun seller would have had to funnel their transaction through a licensed firearm dealer, assuring a background check is performed. That’s it. “This (transaction) is really what I-594 is about. This, along with gun shows, are the biggest loopholes. This is what we’re trying to stop,” she said.