Hidden Pitfalls in Washington Ballot Measure Could Criminalize the Average Shooter

   09.12.14

An upcoming ballot measure pushed by gun control groups and bankrolled by billionaires could turn gun owners and shooters into criminals in unexpected ways.

The ballot initiative, I-594, an 18-page compilation of changes to Washington State’s firearms laws, could have widespread effects on every firearms transfer and even lead to possible future confiscation according to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

“Initiative 594 is a universal handgun registration scheme being promoted by a very wealthy group of anti-gun elitists who have already raised more than $7 million to qualify and pass this initiative,” reads a recent NRA analysis of the proposed measure.

Explaining further, the gun rights group advises, “Although they describe it as a ‘universal background check’ measure, it is not universal because criminals will never comply with the requirements. It is, however, universal handgun registration.”

Introduced in 2013 and backed by the little-known Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the ballot measure was already shot down by the state legislature in January, which has led to its second chance at passage this November at the hands of voters.

The text of the document, contends the NRA, is deeply flawed. The pro-gun group of some 5 million members asserts that should I-594 make it into law, every person involved in a handgun “transfer” will have their name entered into a government database maintained by the state. A transfer, as covered by the initiative, would include everything from sales to simply loaning a gun to another shooter at the range.

In short, as explained by Second Amendment scholar Dave Kopel, “If you borrow your grandfather’s handgun for the weekend, you’ll be required to be listed in the database.”

Further, handgun sales, even for private transfers, would be subject to a 10-day waiting period whereas current laws in the Evergreen State only call for a five-day period. Even gun control-heavy California, who has seen its 10-day hold challenged successfully in federal court, makes allowances for the loaning of guns, which Washington’s initiative does not.

“The only thing that I-594 would accomplish is the creation of a government record of all lawfully transferred handguns in Washington, which would facilitate their future confiscation,” states the NRA.

A look at the money behind the confusing ballot initiative shows that gun control groups and billionaires make up the vast majority of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s supporters.

According to their website, the top five contributors to the group are venture capitalist Nicolas Hanauer, Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, and Microsoft alumni William Gates III, Melinda Gates, and Paul Allen. As covered by CNN Money, Gates and his wife chipped in more than $1 million of their personal fortune to the effort, a figure that was matched by Hanauer. This money has already gone towards a series of ads decrying the state’s current laws as having dangerous loopholes.

Once you get away from the handful of big name donors, endorsements for I-594 are sparse with WAGR listing a score of businesses and organizations including a coffee shop and other regional gun control groups.

Opposing I-594 are law enforcement associations including the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) and the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) who publicly stated that they “do not believe that this will keep guns out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill.” The group also stated that a potential firearms registry associated with the measure would be an infringement of the privacy rights of gun owners.

In addition to the NRA, gun rights groups including the Second Amendment Foundation, Washington Arms Collectors, Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club, and the Firearms Policy Coalition have all advised for “no” votes on I-594.

The Washington State general election is scheduled for November 4.

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