Supporters of an initiative to expand background checks for gun sales have come up with a new way to gather signatures: delegating the job to newspaper readers.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility this week paid to put petitions in 130,000 copies of The Seattle Times and 50,000 copies of The Stranger, according to spokesman Christian Sinderman.
The petition, an 11 x 17 paper featuring the wording of the initiative, space for five signatures and instructions for how to mail them in, greeted Times home subscribers in King and Snohomish counties Saturday.
“It’s a cool experiment to go directly to people with petitions, to try to make it easy for them,” Sinderman said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The approach has been done before, on occasion, said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s 2014 initiative would require background checks for all gun sales, not just those by licensed firearm dealers, as in current law.
The group paid The Times $10,000 and The Stranger $5,000 for the packages, which included printing the petitions, Sinderman said.
Jill Mackie, spokeswoman for The Times, said the group was charged the typical rate for a political issue advertising campaign.
Opponents of the initiative painted the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s new advertising campaign as an act of desperation.
“They must be having trouble getting people to sign their petition,” said Phil Watson, of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, whose leadership prefers another 2014 initiative to prevent the state from adopting expanded background checks on its own. “Otherwise why spend money on this?”
But Sinderman said the newspaper advertising represented a good deal.
If 5 percent of the 130,000 Times subscriber mail in five signatures, Sinderman noted, it would translate to about 30,00 signatures. He said that would cost about $90,000 to collect via paid signature-gatherers — nine times what the group paid The Times.