Common sense and firearms

If you can’t convince them, confuse them. It’s a shrewd, if cynical axiom that could pay off for opponents of gun-sale background checks.

This fall voters will weigh in on two competing initiatives, I-594, which requires background checks on firearm sales and transfers, including online sales and gun shows; and, I-591 which prohibits background checks “unless a national standard is required.” (The latter qualifer a reminder of big-footing feds.)

An April 15 Elway poll illustrates the confusion, with 72 percent of respondents likely to vote for background checks, 55 percent likely to vote for the initiative with the “unless a national standard” language, and 40 percent inclined to vote for both (!) To quote “Alice in Wonderland,” “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Presupposing that impossible happens and both measures pass, the Legislature will need to disentangle the mess (more counter-logic, but possible) or the state Supreme Court will decide. Dave Ammons, communications director for the Secretary of State and a longtime Associated Press scribe and analyst, figures the court is the more likely resolver (the justices may need to read their Lewis Carroll.)

Washingtonians will get gobsmacked by ads from both sides. Will the onslaught disabuse voters of misconceptions? Ideally, yes, distortion and hyperbole notwithstanding. Most Washingtonians support background checks, so the smart money is on I-594 passing. I-591, polling in the mid-50s, is less of a sure thing, with numbers consistent with Eyman-like initiatives that historically crash and burn.

And then there’s the money. Unlike previous campaigns, pro-background forces will have dinero and expert political help. Washington is a bellwether. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pouring $50 million into a grassroots gun-control push, a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association. A lot of that likely will flow this way, helping level the ad wars.

It’s an unfortunate fight because background checks are clearly in the public interest, especially to limit those living with mental illness from purchasing a firearm. And felons should have obstacles to prevent them from easily copping a gun online or at a gun show.

Western politicians recoil at all of this. Recall what happened to former House Speaker Tom Foley when he was targeted by the NRA and defeated in 1994. But times have changed, particularly when it comes to something as fundamental as making it hard for a wife beater to buy a .357. Here’s wagering that in 2014 a voter tyranny of common sense blunts the NRA.

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