Story Summary

Initiative 594 would require background checks on all firearm sales

State and federal laws require gun dealers to have licenses and, in most cases, conduct background checks on gun buyers. I-594 would require background checks on the sale or transfer of all firearms and adds background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows. The measure includes an exemption for antique firearms.

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SEATTLE — Two competing state initiatives dealing with firearm background checks will go before voters in Washington state on the November ballot.

One would expand background checks before one could buy a firearm; the other would keep background checks the way they are today.

“I still vividly remember the day I spent in fear for my good friend who worked at the Jewish Federation. Later, I was in complete disbelief that four police officers could be shot while drinking coffee and then Cafe Racer, the coffee shop that our au pair hung out at with his friends,” said Kate Beck with Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense.

A number of organizations fighting to end gun violence came together to show a unified front to address a problem that just won’t go away.

“Gun violence kills 86 Americans every day. It happens everywhere; in big cities, small towns, on our streets, schools, shopping malls and places of worship,” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said.

gunsMurray announced a new nationwide organization.

“Every Town for Gun Safety is a new organization that brings mayors, moms and the grass-roots movement of Americans together to deal with the issue of gun violence,” Murray said.

The organization will not only advocate for universal background checks and closing the so-called gun show loophole, but will seek to address all the ways gun violence threatens Americans.

“It isn’t clear that background checks have really ever prevented a single crime,” said Dave Workman with Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.

Workman says just because someone doesn’t pass a background check doesn’t mean he doesn’t get his hands on a firearm.

“Adam Lanza who committed that crime (elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.) didn’t pass a background check because he murdered his mother and took her guns down to the school. The guy that shot up the Clackamas Mall in Oregon stole a rifle he used in that event. Naveed Haq, who shot up the Jewish Federation (in Seattle), passed two background checks,” Workman said.

Lobbying for passage of one or the other of the competing background check initiatives is sure to get more intense before the fall.


OLYMPIA — Gun control was the issue of the day in Olympia. Hundreds of people turned out to testify in support of two different initiatives regarding background checks. Some of the most poignant testimony came from former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

“We must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight,” she said.

photo 2Giffords is not only talking about her efforts to recover from a gunshot wound three years ago, when a long gunman walked up and shot her point-blank in the head while she was at a campaign event in Tucson, Ariz., but she was also talking about the effort to make our country safer from gun violence.

She and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, came to Olympia to push a Washington state initiative, I-594, that would expand criminal background checks for gun purchases.

“Right now, you go to a gun store, you got to get a background check,” Kelly said. But “for a criminal that fails, he can go down the street and go to a gun show” and buy a firearm.  “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Kelly admits gun control is a complicated issue with two passionate sides. There were lines of people outside the state Capitol in support of I-594.

“It is a step, it is not the final measure,” said Randy Holland. “I think more gun safety is needed, but this is at least one step.”

“What is it going to take for us to say we need to change?” asked Patricia Johnson, as she listed off some recent cases of violence.

But there were also many supporters who turned out in favor of I-591, a different initiative that would limit what the state could do regarding gun purchases.

“The background check systems do not work,” said Devyn Hembry. “We need to deal with our criminals, that’s the problem.”

“They’re punishing law-abiding citizens, they’re not focusing on criminals,” added Kevin King.

Kelly used to live in this state, and says he understands why some people don’t want more government control.

“Washington has a very strong history of gun ownership. I’m a gun owner, Gabby is a gun owner.  We’re strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment, we get that.”

But he and his wife say the only way to start reducing gun violence is to start making it harder for criminals to get weapons.  They told legislators I-594 will do that.

“Be bold, be courageous, the nation is counting on you,” Giffords testified.

The state House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both initiatives Tuesday. But if the Legislature as a whole does not act on either, then they initiatives end up on the ballot in November and voters will decide the issue.

SEATTLE — In a joint statement issued Monday, Washington state’s Catholic bishops said requiring background checks on all firearm sales represents “a prudent balance between concerns for personal liberty and public safety.”

gunsThe statement in support of state Initiative 594 said that as pastoral leaders, the bishops could not ignore what they called threats to public safety that arise when guns are too easily accessible.

State and federal laws require gun dealers to have licenses and, in most cases, conduct background checks on gun buyers. I-594 would require background checks on the sale or transfer of all firearms and adds background checks for online sales and sales at gun shows. The measure includes an exemption for antique firearms.

“In addition to this initiative measure, we also urge support by public and elected officials for policy initiatives to improve access to mental health care for those who may be prone to violence,” the statement said.

The bishops said the prevalence of mass shootings “reflect a devaluing of human life in our nation” and that as pastoral leaders they have a particular responsibility to participate in efforts that reduce violence.

As part of those efforts, the bishops laid out principles for reducing gun violence, including measures that make guns safer, place curbs on easy access to deadly weapons such as assault rifles as well as “a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.”

Initiative 594 is an initiative to the Legislature, which may be approved by state lawmakers or sent to voters as a written ballot measure. Legislators could also modify the initiative and send it and the original text of the measure to the ballot.

The Catholic Bishops of Washington State are:  Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of the Archdiocese of Seattle; Bishop Blase J. Cupich of the Diocese of Spokane; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima; and Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

SEATTLE — Supporters of an initiative to forbid universal background checks on gun sales in Washington state beyond the federal requirements have turned in their first batch of petitions to qualify for the 2014 ballot. Backers of Initiative 591 say they’ve gathered 340,000 signatures, more than enough to send the measure to voters.

I-591 would make it illegal for any government agency to require background checks beyond federal standards. The initiative would also prevent the government from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process.

guns3Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, insists that I-591 is not meant to eliminate background checks. He accuses gun prohibitionists of waging a war of disinformation. “They would have the public believing that there currently are no background checks,” Gottlieb said in a post on the committee’s website. “We have federal and state checks in place, and we are going to protect those procedures with I-591.”

The gun-rights initiative was filed in response to a competing ballot measure, I-594, which would establish background checks for all public and private gun sales in Washington state. Both initiatives are expected to go before the 2014 Legislature and, if lawmakers don’t approve, to the November 2014 ballot, according to The Seattle Times.

Read the full text of I-591 here and I-594 here.