Washington state voters this month approved — by a wide margin — the expansion of gun-purchase background checks to private sales and transfers. Now that Initiative 594 has passed, gun-rights supporters are shifting gears from working to defeat a proposal to opposing a new law.
Opponents have claimed the law will criminalize law-abiding gun owners for handing each other guns (for detailed look at this argument, read our explainer here). To that effect, there will be a demonstration at the Capitol in Olympia in December where people hand each other firearms. The Washington State Patrol, however, has said it doesn’t consider the planned demonstration a transfer and won’t arrest anyone for exchanging guns.
On another front, the National Rifle Association recently sent out an email that, among other things, announced its intention to lobby for changes in I-594 during next year’s legislative session.
“Obviously, we are disappointed in the outcome of I-594 and are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate the damage caused to our members in Washington State,” reads the letter. “We are already in discussions about legislative remedies to the most onerous provisions.”
What might those provisions be? Catherine Mortensen, spokeswoman for the NRA, didn’t elaborate. But she did list a slew of groups — law enforcement, hunters, security companies and shooting ranges — that could press lawmakers to amend parts of I-594.
“I don’t think there is any surprise that lawmakers will be inundated with these requests,” said Mortensen.
Zach Silk, campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which spearheaded the I-594 campaign, called the NRA’s intentions disappointing.
“The voters spoke loud and clear at the election,” Silk said, adding later: “They basically want to reopen this after we already had a year-and-a-half campaign talking about all of the different nuances of I-594.”
It remains to be seen whether or how many such changes to I-594 will be proposed, and whether any would clear the high bar set for a newly-passed initiative. In the first two years after an initiative passes, any changes would require two-thirds majority votes.
Meanwhile, supporters of stricter gun laws have already announced their intention to build upon I-594’s success with a push for more proposals this upcoming legislative session. To that end, Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, has said she will reintroduce a bill to make it a crime for someone to leave or store a loaded gun where a child could get access.
The advocacy group Moms Demand Action sent out a statement Monday highlighting a shooting the group said would fall under Kagi’s bill. On Friday, a 3-year-old Lake Stevens boy was shot in the mouth by a 4-year-old neighbor.
“When one child shoots another because of an adult gun owner’s negligence, that adult needs to be held accountable,” read the statement from Moms Demand Action, a branch of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.