Politics

Lawsuits to ballot: Washington set for gun control vote

Initiative 1639 would raise age to buy semi-automatic rifle to 21

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- When Washington voters decide whether to raise the age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21, it will be the culmination of a twisty-turny ballot initiative, high-profile supporters and an extraordinary amount of money from both sides.

Initiative 1639 would raise the age for the purchase of a semi-automatic rifle to 21. It would also expand the background checks for the purchase of these rifles.

But it almost didn't make the ballot.

Washington Initiative 1639, the Changes to Gun Ownership and Purchase Requirements Measure, is on the ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the People, a type of initiated state statute, on November 6, 2018.
> A yes vote supports the ballot initiative to implement restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms including raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, background checks, waiting periods, and storage requirements.
> A no vote opposes the ballot initiative to implement restrictions on the purchase and ownership of firearms including raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21, background checks, waiting periods, and storage requirements.


The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit that challenged the ballot title and summary, which was then re-written. A second lawsuit against the initiative was dismissed. But a third lawsuit was upheld, until the Washington Supreme Court overruled a lower court's ruling.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon had said the signature petitions did not clearly identify what would change in the law and the font was too small to be readable. He ordered the secretary of state to stop certification of the measure.


But in an August 2018 decision written by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, the Washington Supreme Court said the secretary of state is not required to block a measure based on the readability and formatting of the proposed measure's text

What supporters and opponents say

"The federal government has established you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun," said proponent Stephen Paolini. It seems to me absurd that you can be 18 years old and purchase a group of firearms that, when used in crimes, contribute to 135% more injuries and 37% more deaths."

But opponents, like John Scranton, said that at the age of 18 you have adult rights such as voting and driving and should have full 2nd Amendment rights.

"At 18 years of age you are eligible to go into the draft to serve your country. You'll be called up, if there's a requirement for that," Scranton said. "At age 18, you are officially a member of the unorganized state militia."

Scranton said Initiative 1639 goes too far. 

"If a burglar breaks in and breaks into your lock box or safe and takes your guns away and gives them to other people that are criminal friends and they commit crimes with them you will be held criminally responsible," he said.

Paolini disagrees and points to the measure that said a gun owner is not responsible if someone steals guns that were safely stored or had a trigger lock.

"It establishes accountability with actions come consequences," Paolini said. "If your negligence or irresponsible storage is so egregious that a resonsable expectation would say a child or felon has easy access to the firearm and a crime occurs because of that then you can be held accountable."

Big donor

Months before that ruling, Seahawks/Blazers owner Paul Allen contributed $1 million to Initiative 1639, which would also create "an enhanced background check system." 

The initiative, Allen tweeted, is  a necessary and reasonable one. 

The initiative was created by Washington's Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

Supporters of Washington Initiative 1639

Opponents of Washington Initiative 1639


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