OLYMPIA — With pistols holstered at their hips or rifles slung across their shoulders, gun-rights supporters Thursday morning filled the Capitol steps.
The “594 Rally for Sanity” was primarily aimed at protesting Initiative 594, which voters passed in November with 59 percent of the vote. I-594 expands background checks beyond the current federal standard to include private sales and transfers, like some of those conducted online or at gun shows.
Alan Gottlieb, head of several Bellevue-based gun-rights organizations, told the crowd it was time to match the efforts of I-594’s mega-wealthy financial backers. Bill and Melinda Gates, Nick Hanauer, Steve and Connie Ballmer, Paul Allen and a group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed millions of dollars to I-594’s campaign.
“We’re here in broad daylight for all to see, unlike their biggest fat-cat supporter Michael Bloomberg, who’s hiding in New York City,” said Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation. The foundation has filed a lawsuit against I-594.
“We hope to get an injunction against many parts of 594,” Gottlieb told the crowd.
The rally drew both Republican and Democratic lawmakers as speakers, including Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver; Rep. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver; Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, and Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.
“When our founders put the constitution together, they put this as the Second Amendment, not the fourth, the fifth, the 10th,” Angel told the crowd. “So it must have been pretty darn important to them. Be vigilant.”
Geoff Potter, spokesman Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which spearheaded the I-594 campaign and is pushing for more gun laws this legislative session, dismissed the rally.
“What we saw today was a very small group of people trying to re-fight an issue that the people of Washington have already resolved,” said Potter. “The voters made clear that they want stronger gun laws, and the gun lobby made clear today that they want to make it easier for dangerous people to obtain guns.”
The alliance was scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon announcing more about its effort to begin scoring lawmakers on votes they take.