OLYMPIA — Supporters of an initiative that would prevent Washington state from adopting universal background checks for gun sales say they have submitted 340,000 signatures with their first batch of petitions submitted Thursday to the secretary of state’s office.
Initiative 591 would prevent Washington from adopting background-check laws stricter than the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. It would also prohibit confiscation of firearms without due process.
“This is a monumental effort to protect our gun rights,” said Alan Gottlieb, chairman for Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a spokesman for Protect Our Gun Rights. “Our mission is and always has been to assure public safety while protecting the constitutional and civil rights of law-abiding gun owners and citizens.”
Gottlieb and other supporters turned in 13 boxes of petitions with the signatures, with signs on the boxes that read, “Save your gun. Yes on 591.”
The proposal was crafted in response to Initiative 594, also likely aimed at the 2014 ballot, which seeks to require background checks for all sales. Supporters of that measure turned in more than 250,000 signatures in early October. Both campaigns can continue to turn in signatures until the Jan. 3 deadline.
Initiatives require at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state’s office suggests filing at least 320,000 to provide a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures. The validation process begins after the signature deadline.
Washington state lawmakers had considered a measure similar to I-594 earlier this year, but it didn’t pass the House or the Senate.
I-594 does not include some of the exemptions that lawmakers had been considering. For example, law enforcement officers or people who have concealed pistol licenses still would have to go through background checks on private transactions under the initiative.
Because both measures are “initiatives to the Legislature,” if enough signatures qualify for I-594 and I-591, lawmakers will have the option of adopting the initiatives during the next legislative session that begins in January. Otherwise the measures would be on the ballot in November 2014.