First batch of signatures filed for gun measure

OLYMPIA — Advocates of an initiative seeking to expand background checks for Washington state gun sales said they have submitted more than 250,000 signatures on their first batch of petitions delivered Wednesday to the secretary of state’s office.

Eleven boxes of petitions for Initiative 594 were delivered to the state’s election division headquarters office by supporters, many wearing “Yes on 594” stickers.

I-594 would require background checks for online sales and private transactions, such as those that occur at gun shows. The checks would be conducted at federally licensed firearm dealers, where people already must undergo such scrutiny before purchasing a new weapon.

Cheryl Stumbo, sponsor of the measure, was wounded during a 2006 shooting at the Jewish Federation in Seattle that killed one woman and injured others. Naveed Haq was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the rampage.

Stumbo acknowledged that Haq had passed a background check, but she said the need for the measure isn’t diminished just because it wouldn’t have prevented that shooting.

“This is about saving as many lives as we can,” she said.

A counter campaign for a gun rights ballot measure is still collecting signatures. Supporters of Initiative 591 said they will have enough signatures to turn in before the Jan. 3 deadline.

That initiative would prevent Washington state from adopting background check laws that are more restrictive than the federal standard. It would also prohibit confiscation of firearms without due process.

Alan Gottlieb, chairman for Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a spokesman for Protect Our Gun Rights, said I-591 is “a pushback that stops the assaults on gun owners’ civil rights.”

Initiatives require at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state suggests filing at least 320,000 to provide a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures.

Supporters of I-594 said their goal is to turn in 325,000 signatures before the end of December. The signature validation process begins after the Jan. 3 signature deadline.

Washington state lawmakers had considered a measure similar to I-594 earlier this year, but it didn’t pass the House or the Senate.

I-594 does not include some of the exemptions that lawmakers had been considering. For example, law enforcement officers or people who have concealed pistol licenses still would have to go through background checks on private transactions under the initiative.

If enough signatures qualify for I-594 and I-591, lawmakers will have the option of adopting the initiatives during the next legislative session that begins in January. Otherwise the measures would be on the ballot in November 2014.

More about initiatives

For more about the competing initiatives on background checks, go to:

Initiative 594: wagunresponsibility.org

Initiative 591: wagunrights.org/tag/initiative-591

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