Washington state supporters of expanded background checks for gun sales state have won an early skirmish in a long battle with Second Amendment activists that’s expected to end with dueling initiatives on the November 2014 ballot.
The background-check supporters beat back two court challengers to the wording of what will appear on the ballot with their measure, Initiative 594, which would require the checks for almost all gun sales. Background checks currently are required only for sales by licensed firearm dealers.
Both challenges came from gun-rights supporters who felt the wording put the proposal in a positive light. They wanted the ballot title and summary to call the exceptions “limited” and note more prominently that not conducting a background check would be a crime.
Alan Gottlieb of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation said he was disappointed in the Thurston County Superior Court ruling “because if you’re creating a new crime, voters should know that.”
Initiative supporters, naturally, were happier.
Spokesman Christian Sinderman argued that the challenges backfired because one of the only changes to the ballot title and summary made by Judge Chris Wickham clarified that the background checks look for criminal history and public-safety issues.
If the measure makes it to the ballot, the following will run with Initiative 594:
“This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background check requirements by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.
“Current law requires criminal and public safety background checks before purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. This measure would extend this requirement to most firearm purchases and transfers in Washington, with exceptions, including transfers within families, temporary transfers for self-defense and hunting, and antiques. Licensed dealers would conduct the background checks and could charge a fee. Violation of these requirements would be a crime.”
Second Amendment activists, meanwhile, are pursuing their own initiative, also aimed first at the 2014 Legislature and then, likely, the November 2014 ballot. The ballot wording of Initiative 591 was approved without a court fight. It is:
“This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.
“This measure would declare that it is unlawful for any government agency to confiscate guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or to require background checks on the recipient of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.”