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October 10, 2013 at 2:39 PM
A national Second Amendment group based in Bellevue has decided to sponsor “Guns Save Lives Day” on Dec. 14 — the anniversary of last year’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
The 650,000-member Second Amendment Foundation, which announced the event Thursday with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and DefendGunRights.com, has not yet decided what it will entail. But Alan Gottlieb, the president of the group, said the goal is to show “there’s a good side of guns.”
“People every single day use guns to save lives,” Gottlieb said. “We don’t think anybody should have been a victim at Sandy Hook, and we don’t think anybody should be a victim in the future.”
Gottlieb estimated that some 200 gun-rights groups from all 50 states would participate in the event.
“Quite frankly, we don’t want the gun prohibition lobby to own that day,” he said. “So we’re starting early.”
Critics blasted the event as disrespectful.
Cheryl Stumbo, a victim of the Seattle Jewish Federation shooting on July 28, 2006, said that if gun-rights groups tried to sponsor a similar event on July 28, it would feel like “a slap in the face.”
“It’s an attempt to blame victims, and it shouldn’t be tolerated,” said Stumbo, the sponsor of a 2014 initiative campaign to require background checks for all gun sales, not just those by licensed dealers.
Earlier this week, supporters of the initiative submitted 250,000 of the roughly 325,000 signatures required to get on the ballot.
Gottlieb is the main spokesman for a rival ballot measure, also proposed for 2014, that would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws that are more strict than the federal standard.
Asked about the potential for his “Guns Save Lives Day” to offend victims, he said that the groups “are not planning on doing anything that’s insensitive whatsoever.
“We know that our opponents are going to try to use that day to push their agenda,” he said. “We’re going to show the American people that there’s a good side of guns.”
July 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM
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.”
June 11, 2013 at 12:44 PM
State faith leaders and gun violence victims on Tuesday filed an initiative proposal that would require background checks for almost all firearms sales and transfers, taking the first step in what is expected to be a hotly contested push for stronger gun laws.
Supporters, who have already raised more than $1 million for their campaign, will need to gather some 246,000 valid signatures by next January to send the measure to the state Legislature. If lawmakers do not accept it, the initiative would go to voters in November 2014.
The background checks are meant to prevent felons and mentally disabled people from getting weapons. The checks are currently required for sales from licensed gun dealers.
The proposed law would extend that mandate to private sales, requiring the seller go to a dealer and pay for a background check.
A few transfers would be exempted, including for antique guns, gifts within the immediate family, situations where there is imminent danger and transactions related to a law enforcement officer’s job.
“This will make it more difficult for bad guys to get guns, and it won’t burden the good guys,” said campaign manager Zach Silk, noting that 98 percent of state residents live within 10 miles of a gun dealer.
But Second Amendment activists quickly noted the proposal would be far stricter than a bill that failed to pass this year in even the Legislature’s Democrat-controlled House. That measure would have exempted concealed pistol license holders.
Alan Gottlieb, of the Second Amendment Foundation, called the new proposal “overly restrictive by a long shot.”
The National Rifle Association, which typically opposes new gun restrictions, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is unclear how much gun-rights activists will fight the initiative.
Supporters, though, are expected to be well-financed. The campaign will be a run by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group founded late last year by wealthy venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.
A kickoff fundraiser two weeks ago at The Westin Seattle brought in more than $1 million from 1,200 attendees, according to initiative spokesman Christian Sinderman.
The luncheon’s keynote speaker was Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a big-spending group founded by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. After the luncheon, Glaze promised that Bloomberg’s group would support the Washington state initiative.
Gun-control advocates are hoping that national support will help them avoid what happened in 1997, when a Washington state initiative to require trigger locks on handguns and training for owners failed overwhelmingly.
This time, said Silk, “we expect to win.”
May 17, 2013 at 2:02 PM
A state gun-control group is putting advertisements inside and outside of dozens of King County Metro Transit buses, urging residents to “think twice about having a gun in your home.”
But the ads, paid for by Washington Ceasefire, were rejected by transit agencies in Snohomish and Pierce counties, said the group’s board president, Ralph Fascitelli.
In addition to the “think twice” message, most of the ads include a statistical claim such as that a homeowner with a gun is 22 times more likely to kill a friend or family member than an intruder.
Fascitelli said the statistics are from the book “Private Gun, Public Health” by Dr. David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health.
The ad buy includes 53 exterior ads and 130 interior ads, according to the King County Department of Transportation. They recently went up and will be in place until at least June 2.
Jeff Switzer, a spokesman for the department, said the ads are in compliance with its ad policy, which prohibits political campaign speech and several other categories of advertising.
Washington Ceasefire made a similar ad buy in March of 2012, Switzer said.
The group has also advertised in Snohomish County before. But Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia said the county adopted a new policy this month that prohibits ads about social issues.
A spokeswoman for Pierce Transit did not return messages seeking comment.
This year’s campaign is part of an effort by Washington Ceasefire to address gun violence in the aftermath of several recent mass shootings, Fascitelli said.
Fascitelli said the group is focused on both public health education campaigns and legislative efforts. On the legislative front, activists are pursuing a 2014 initiative to the Legislature centered on expanded background checks for gun sales.
“We have to do something,” Fascitelli said.
April 29, 2013 at 9:09 AM
Weeks after defeat in the state Legislature and U.S. Congress, local gun-control advocates announced Monday that they’re taking their case to the people.
“We are here today to ask our elected officials why they have failed us,” said the Rev. Sandy Brown of Seattle’s First United Method Church, who was flanked by faith leaders, elected officials and activists the morning after the end of Washington’s 2013 regular legislative session.
The 2014 initiative would seek to require background checks for all gun sales, not just those from licensed dealers as exists under the current law, said Zach Silk of the new Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which will run the campaign.
A similar proposal narrowly failed in the Legislature in March and in Congress earlier this month.
The initiative, which supporters hope to file next month, would go first to the 2014 Legislature. If it did not pass there, to the ballot box that November.
Silk said the campaign plans to raise several million dollars, including money from national gun control groups.
“We believe we will win and prevail,” he said.
The last gun-control initiative on the ballot in Washington state did not prevail. Initiative 676, to require trigger locks on handguns, failed overwhelmingly in 1997.
Gun-rights activists say the expanded checks would be ineffective and unconstitutional, unnecessarily burdening law-abiding gun owners.
But speakers at the event, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, said recent polls indicate the public supports background checks.
And they said momentum is on their side following recent mass shootings at Cafe Racer in Seattle and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“We will not wait for another Cafe Racer or another Sandy Hook,” said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Seattle’s Temple De Hirsch Sinai. “It is time we stand up to be heard.”
April 17, 2013 at 6:48 PM
OLYMPIA — Democrats fumed Wednesday afternoon after the Republican-run state Senate declined to vote on a bipartisan gun-control bill before a key legislative deadline.
State Rep. Roger Goodman, who sponsored the bill, said he and others were “seething with anger” after hearing the measure would not get a vote before the 5 p.m. cutoff, likely ending its chance this legislative session.
The bill, House Bill 1840, would require some gun owners with a restraining or protective orders against them to temporarily surrender their guns while the order is in effect. Supporters see that as a protection for domestic violence victims, but opponents see it as intrusive and potentially unconstitutional.
The issue was highlighted in a recent New York Times story.
The measure was seen as gun-control advocates’ top priority after a string of high-profile defeats this session, including on a proposal to expand background checks for firearms sales.
The bill passed 61-37 in the House and 5-0 (with one abstention) in the Senate Law & Justice Committee after senators included an amendment to add more judicial oversight.
Once it got to the full Senate, several members expressed concern “that an individual who has not committed a crime would lose their guns,” said Sen. Mike Padden, a Spokane Valley Republican who chairs the Senate Law & Justice Committee.
Padden said he supported the bill, but “I don’t make all these decisions.”
Goodman said that “I guess these senators don’t mind guns remaining in the hands of domestic abusers, and they’re going to have to answer for that.”
Senate Democrats considered making a procedure move to bring the measure to the floor, but decided against it.
The Senate did pass one gun-control bill Wednesday — House Bill 1612, which would require people convicted of a firearms-related felony to register with law enforcement. The database of firearms felons would be maintained by the Washington State Patrol.
The bill, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mike Hope of Lake Stevens, passed 41-7. It had passed the House 85-10, but now must go back there for approval of a technical change before going to Gov. Jay Inslee for final approval.
The apparent death of HB 1840 came on the same day an effort in the U.S. Senate to expand background checks failed.
Washington state gun-control advocates described the failures as evidence a gun-control ballot initiative is needed.
“It’s time for the people to lead,” said Zach Silk, campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, in an email about the U.S. Senate vote.
March 13, 2013 at 6:00 PM
OLYMPIA — A key deadline came and went here on Wednesday afternoon, taking with it an opportunity many saw as this session’s best chance for expanding background checks for gun sales.
House Bill 1588, a much-discussed priority of gun-control advocates, did not come up for a vote in the state House before 5 p.m., the cutoff for floor votes on bills not deemed necessary to implement the budget.
Prime sponsor Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, said late Tuesday night he had come up a few votes short, but some other supporters were holding out hope.
That ended Wednesday, as Medina Democrat Ross Hunter and other supporters trying to round up last-minute votes failed to get enough to bring the measure to the floor.
The proposal also did not get a vote in the state Senate; that chamber is generally seen as more lenient about cut-off, but Republicans who control the chamber generally oppose the measure.
The bill would require background checks for all gun purchases. Currently, they are required for sales from licensed dealers but not for purchases from private, unlicensed residents.
Activists on both sides said if little is accomplished in the Legislature, they expect a gun-control initiative on the November ballot. They pointed to the newly-created Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is funded by venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.
Alliance lobbyist Cody Arledge said the group is still weighing its options. But the timing for an initiative campaign may not be ideal, he said, because many of the national — and wealthy — gun-control groups are focused this year on changing federal laws.
March 12, 2013 at 8:39 PM
OLYMPIA — Gun-control advocates in the state House conceded defeat Tuesday night on their top priority: a high-profile bill to require background checks for all gun sales.
While cautioning that nothing is ever truly dead in Olympia, bill sponsor Jamie Pedersen said “it does not appear that we’re going to make it there.”
“I always thought this was a stretch goal for us,” said Pedersen, D-Seattle. “It turns out it was too much of a stretch.”
Pedersen and others — including House Speaker Frank Chopp and Gov. Jay Inslee — have spent the past few days pushing for House Bill 1588, which would end a discrepancy in state law that allows sales from unlicensed, private dealers without background checks.
Earlier Tuesday, supporters announced they were adding a referendum clause to the bill in a last-minute bid to secure three needed votes.
Pedersen told reporters that the clause, which would put the issue on the November ballot, would be enough to get the votes. But after a day of politicking, he said the clause had indeed picked up some votes — but also turned off a half dozen original supporters of the bill.
Those supporters were concerned about risking a referendum in an off-year, low-turnout election, Pedersen said.
A spokesman for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which had been pushing the bill, said the group may consider running an initiative campaign in favor of expanded background checks.
In the Legislature, the prospects for the bill also appeared grim in the Republican-run state Senate, where leadership has indicated they will not bring up the bill for a vote.
Supporters in the Senate had said they had the votes to pass the bill — if they could get a vote on it.
Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray said Tuesday’s developments in the House made that harder.
“It’s not over until it’s over, but this makes it more difficult,” he said.
Non-budget bills have until Wednesday to make it out of their house of origin.
On Tuesday night, several House Democrats emerged from the caucus room with tears in their eyes.
“As a parent of four young kids –” said state Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle. “Just, incredibly disappointing.”
March 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM
OLYMPIA — Supporters of a bill to require background checks for all gun sales added a referendum clause to the proposal Tuesday morning in a last-minute bid to gain support in the state House.
“We worked really hard, but we could not get to 50 votes without a referendum clause,” said Pedersen, D-Seattle, acknowledging that any referendum campaign would be expensive.
A vote has been tentatively scheduled for early this afternoon, following a 1 p.m. caucus. Republicans plan to block the bill, including by offering several amendments.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a new group funded by Nick Hanauer, is expected to run the campaign in support of the expanded checks — if the bill passes the House and Senate.
The Alliance has hired Zach Silk as its campaign manager. Silk ran last year’s successful referendum to legalize gay marriage.
Currently, background checks are required for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private, unlicensed sellers. Ending that discrepancy has become a major flashpoint in Washington state and Washington, D.C.
Supporters say it could help curb gun violence, while opponents decry it as ineffective and unconstitutional.
The hope is that the referendum clause will give the proposal enough votes to get it over the top in the state House. As of late Monday night, the proposal was still three votes short despite a late lobbying effort by Gov. Jay Inslee.
“We’re very excited about being able to get an affirmative vote,” said Christian Sinderman, a spokesman for the Alliance.
Sinderman said his group has talked with Pedersen and other lawmakers about the potential referendum.
The tougher fight will be in the Senate. Supporters there say they have the votes, but only if they can get the measure to the floor in a chamber controlled by Republicans who oppose the measure.
If it gets to a referendum, Sinderman said the campaign in favor would “start in a good place.”
A recent Elway Poll found that 79 percent of voters support universal background checks. But gun-control measures have not fared well at the ballot in Washington state in recent years.
A lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, which opposes the bill, and several Republican senators declined to comment until after the vote.
March 11, 2013 at 2:26 PM
Gov. Jay Inslee has asked former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords to call a group of Washington state lawmakers who have not yet decided whether to support a contentious proposal to require background checks for all gun sales.
Giffords, a moderate Democrat from Arizona, resigned last January — about a year after being shot in the head at a supermarket near Tucson. She has since become an advocate for stricter gun laws.
State Rep. David Sawyer, an undecided Tacoma Democrat, said Inslee offered to have her call him. Inslee’s office confirmed the governor has asked his former colleague in Congress to call state lawmakers.
The background-check bill, a major priority of gun-control advocates, is expected to get a vote on the state House floor Monday afternoon or evening. But supporters say they’re still a vote or two short of what they need to pass the proposal.
The bill would eliminate an exception that allows purchases from private, unlicensed sellers to occur without a background check.
Inslee made a round of phone calls to undecided lawmakers over the weekend, according to his office. On Monday, the governor was meeting face-to-face with legislators.
In a post-meeting news conference off the House floor, Inslee called the bill “a common-sense piece of legislation.”
“This is a big day for the state to take a meaningful, common-sense step forward,” he said.
If the bill makes it through the House, it will move to the Senate. Supporters there say they probably have the votes to pass the bill — if they can convince Republican leaders to bring it up for a vote.
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