Education, politics fuel TV ad campaign for background checks

The campaign behind Initiative 594 to expand background checks on gun sales is ramping up for the fall election with financial aid from billionaires Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Nick Hanauer

But the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility is already getting an indirect boost from a million-dollar ad campaign paid for by its nonprofit arm that isn’t required to reveal its donors.

Since Aug. 8, the Center for Gun Responsibility has been conducting its “Background Checks Make A Difference” campaign. It features 30-second television commercials and online ads that stress the importance of background checks for improving public safety without ever mentioning the initiative on the November ballot. This education effort will run through Sept. 5, according to spokeswoman Molly Boyajian.

Boyajian, in an email, did not disclose the specific source of the money to pay for the ads. She politely noted the nonprofit has received “gifts from local individuals, partner organizations, foundations, and our national partners.”

Among its local and national partners are the Faith Action Network, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, MomsRising and Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.

The nonprofit Center for Gun Responsibility describes itself as a “research and public engagement organization” focused on “finding and implementing the most effective projects, programs and policies that prevent the harms from gun violence and promote gun responsibility.”

It is affiliated with but operates separate from the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility running the I-594 campaign. Nonprofit leaders do back passage of the measure and one, treasurer Cheryl Stumbo, signed the ballot argument for the initiative.

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