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Voters pass measure to tighten gun control; carbon tax trailing heavily

Voters in Washington state have passed a measure tightening gun regulations including enhanced background checks for people buying semi-automatic rifles.

Initiative 1639 would increase the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, add a waiting period to get those weapons and require safe storage of all firearms.

Supporters say the goal is to curb gun violence and make schools and communities safer by putting safety measures in place. They say making the checks as thorough as the one used for buying a pistol will help ensure that weapons are kept out of dangerous hands.

Opponents say the measure strips the constitutional rights of 18- to 20-year-olds and that forcing gun owners to lock away their firearms could put them in danger.

A measure that would impose the nation's first carbon tax was trailing heavily in early returns.

The fight over whether to make polluters pay for their carbon emissions is being closely watched nationwide. Experts said approval of Initiative 1631 would create momentum for other states.

Oil companies poured more than $31 million to try to defeat the measure in the state's costliest initiative campaign. Opponents spent twice as much as supporters.

Under the initiative, emitters such as fuel producers and natural gas plants would pay an escalating fee on fossil-fuel emissions starting at $15 per metric ton in 2020.

Money raised from the fee would fund a wide range of programs aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the environment.

A ballot measure that would block local governments in Washington state from imposing new taxes on soda or grocery items was leading.

The American Beverage Association has pushed the initiative as part of a nationwide campaign to slow the expansion of soda taxes.

Under Initiative 1634, cities and counties in Washington would be prohibited from taxing soda or food products. The measure would not prevent the state Legislature from doing so.

The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Inc. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, Inc. and others poured more than $20 million in support. Opponents raised about $33,000.

Proponents said the tax hurts small businesses and working people. Opponents said the measure would prevent local governments from raising money and allows corporate interests to create state policy.