NRA has decision to make about Initiative 594

Our state’s super wealthy social changers are at it again.

Two years after their money helped make charter schools possible, the Ballmers, the Gateses and the Nick Hanauers are using some of their loose millions to try to tighten gun laws in Washington.

They’ve made six- and seven-digit contributions to the campaign for Initiative 594, the measure on the November ballot which would expand the state’s background check law to cover most gun sales conducted at gun shows and online.

Their checks went to the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility whose strategists will, sometime after Labor Day, start spending the dough on television commercials claiming wider use of background checks will bolster public safety without infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.

The alliance can afford to wait because it already is getting a boost from a million-dollar ad campaign paid for by its nonprofit alter ego, the Center for Gun Responsibility.

Since Aug. 8, the center has been running dozens of 30-second commercials as part of an “education” campaign dubbed “Background Checks Make A Difference.” The effort is set to end Sept. 5.

The ads stress the value of background checks for enhancing public safety but never mention the ballot measure that its political self is promoting. What’s nice about this campaign finance nuance is it also allows the Center for Gun Responsibility to keep secret the source of its money.

Center spokeswoman Molly Boyajian noted in an email that the nonprofit has received “gifts from local individuals, partner organizations, foundations and our national partners.”

One of those partners is Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by Michael Bloomberg, the super-rich ex-mayor of New York. He’s pledged to spend boatloads of money in every corner of the country to help enact tougher gun control laws and elect pro-gun control lawmakers. I-594 fits his investment profile perfectly.

While billionaires soak up attention for their prodigious checks, where is the National Rifle Association in all of this?

Is it possible the NRA, the established pulpit of the gun-rights movement, will keep its money to itself in this fight?

The NRA does have a political action committee to oppose I-594. But its coffers are pretty much empty. A significant infusion would be needed if the venerable organization intends to deliver a serious counterpunch.

The NRA did contribute $25,000 to its PAC in July then spent most of it on staff, probably to have them survey the landscape. They couldn’t have liked what they discovered.

An Elway Poll in July found 70 percent of voters – many of them in the vote-rich Pugetopolis – “inclined” to back Initiative 594. Three months earlier, an Elway Poll found the level of support at 72 percent.

Things could turn quickly. They did in 1995 when voters initially embraced a gun control-type measure then rejected it. Of late the state’s electorate has been in the mood for reshaping society in ways the government won’t. They’ve privatized liquor and legalized marijuana, charter schools and gay marriage.

Last year, voters seemed primed to pass a food-labeling initiative until opponents shelled out $22 million to defeat it.

The NRA can’t fork out that kind of money, nor must it. Neither can it hope to succeed on its reputation alone.

NRA leaders must decide whether it is worth trying to convince voters in one state in the far corner of the country to defeat an initiative, or focus on keeping members of Congress from changing the background check law for the nation. The next few days will be very telling.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com/thepetridish. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

More in Local News

Inclusion super important to Monroe High senior

Sarah Reeves worked to make homecoming more representative of the student population.

This dental office devoted a day to free care for veterans

All Smiles Northwest in Everett was among businesses observing Freedom Day USA.

FBI operation arrests 3 linked to exploitation of 32 women

The sting focused on Everett and other cities in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Skagit and Spokane counties.

Man arrested in Monroe Walmart robbery; second suspect flees

The pair fled in a stolen Mitsubishi Lancer with a distinctive green spray paint job.

Fugitive convict, missing more than a year, surrenders

Charles Coggins, 60, turned himself in Monday. He could now spend up to 30 days behind bars.

Former homeless camp needs needles and garbage cleaned up

The Hand Up Project will lead a volunteer effort this weekend on wooded land south of Everett.

County Council postpones vote on conservation programs

A decision on funding agricultural and water-quality programs will come after the budget process.

30 homes evacuated after mudslide ruptures natural gas line

The slide also damaged a home in the 7300 block of N Meadowdale Road, near Lynnwood.

Snohomish mayoral candidates have very little in common

Karen Guzak and John Kartak are vying for the new position.

Most Read