Shouldering rifles and handmade signs decrying government overreach, hundreds of demonstrators gathered Saturday at the Capitol campus in Olympia to oppose Initiative 594.
I-594, which voters approved in November by a 19-point margin, expands gun-purchase background checks to private sales and transfers of firearms.
“We stand here on this field to exercise our First Amendment right to exercise our Second Amendment right,” said Gavin Seim, the rally’s organizer, to a crowd that numbered between 800 and 1,000 people.
Opponents of I-594 have insisted the law criminalizes the act of people handing firearms to each other, though the Washington State Patrol (WSP), which is providing security for the rally, has said it wouldn’t arrest anyone doing that.
WSP Trooper Guy Gill said Saturday afternoon that no arrests had been made and that “everything is going good.”
Demonstrators expressed worry that I-594 was a sort of creeping government overreach.
“My rights are being infringed, our Constitution is being trampled,” said Robert Henry, a 57-year-old truck driver who came up from Chehalis for the rally.
But Tim Moses, an I-594 supporter and volunteer for Moms Demand Action, said the rally was in poor taste since it came just the day before the second anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
“This is just disappointing,” Moses said.
The rally is another symbol of shifting battle lines over gun regulation ahead of the state Legislature’s session, which begins in January. Supporters of stronger gun regulations have talked up several bills they intend to introduce, while opponents of gun regulation are talking about ways to repeal or weaken I-594.