Gun-rights activitsts plan initiative

SEATTLE — Facing a multimillion-dollar initiative campaign to expand background checks for gun sales, local Second Amendment activists are responding with their own ballot measure.

A coalition of gun-rights groups on Wednesday unveiled Initiative 591, which would prevent Washington state from adopting background-check laws more restrictive than the federal standard.

The initiative would also prohibit any confiscation of firearms without due process.

If supporters get 246,000 valid signatures, the proposal would become an initiative to the Legislature in 2014 and could end up on the November 2014 ballot — just like a pro-background-check measure.

“The best defense is offense,” said Alan Gottlieb, of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, who came up with the initiative. “We’re giving the voters — who we think are very smart — an alternative.”

Advocates for stronger gun laws have focused on background checks in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last December.

The checks, which are meant to prevent felons and dangerously mentally disabled people from obtaining weapons, are currently required for sales from licensed gun dealers but not for transactions between private citizens, including at gun shows.

Supporters believe mandatory checks for all transfers would improve public safety. Opponents see them as an unnecessary burden on law-abiding gun owners.

The planned pro-background-check measure, Initiative 594, was filed earlier this month.

It is sponsored by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a new group backed by wealthy venture capitalist Nick Hanauer that already has raised more than $1 million.

The gun-rights coalition has so far received $400,000 in pledges from Gottlieb’s group and the Washington Arms Collectors, supporters said. The Gun Owners Action League of Washington is also involved.

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Information from The Seattle Times: http://www.seattletimes.com

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