OLYMPIA — Paul Kramer tried in vain earlier this year to convince state lawmakers to tighten the rules on sales of military-style rifles in Washington.
Now the Mukilteo resident will be making the same case to the people and hoping for a better outcome.
Kramer and his wife, Kim, traveled to Olympia on Friday morning to help deliver signed petitions for Initiative 1639, a measure that would boost the legal age for buying a semiautomatic assault rifle to 21 and apply the same background check requirements for those buyers as are conducted for purchasers of handguns.
“I was extremely disappointed with the failure of the Legislature to pass some responsible gun reform,” he said Friday, shortly before a news conference outside the Secretary of State’s office. “I am optimistic that the voters of the state of Washington will have the desire to pass this measure.”
It’s deeply personal for the Kramers. In July 2016 in Mukilteo, a 19-year-old armed with a military-style rifle legally bought at a local store, murdered three people and wounded their son.
If the measure had been in place then, “it would have prevented the shooting,” Paul Kramer said. “Initiative 1639 will help make sure that no more families have to suffer what mine has.”
Proponents said Friday they submitted 375,000 signatures. If at least 259,622 are from valid registered voters, the measure will be eligible for the November ballot.
Opponents of the measure claim the petition sheets were improperly drafted and must be tossed out. A legal challenge filed last month was dismissed, but they plan to try again after Secretary of State Kim Wyman seemed to indicate Friday there may be problems, though she lacks authority to invalidate them.
Initiative 1639 emerged after lawmakers failed earlier this year to pass a Senate bill raising the minimum age for buying a semiautomatic assault rifle from 18 to 21, which is the age required to buy a handgun, and mandating background checks on buyers.
Those changes are cornerstones of Initiative 1639.
Other provisions in the 30-page measure require gun buyers prove they have completed a firearm safety training course, make the state verify annually that gun owners are still eligible to possess firearms, and hold owners liable for safe storage. It also imposes a waiting period of at least 10 days.
“It is the most comprehensive gun violence prevention measure that has ever been proposed in our state,” Kramer said at the news conference. “It will help save lives.”
If it reaches the ballot, it will be the third significant gun-related measure in front of Washington voters in recent years.
In 2014, they approved universal background checks on handgun purchases. In 2016, they established the use of extreme risk protection orders to remove weapons from those deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Like those efforts, this one is getting early financial support from the state’s super wealthy.
Billionaire Paul Allen, a founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has given $1.23 million to the campaign. Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and his wife, Leslie, have contributed the same amount. Combined, those donors account for 80 percent of the $3 million raised by the political committee behind Initiative 1639 as of Friday, according to online records of the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Opponents of the measure anticipate a difficult fight.
“We know we’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“They will have many 30-second TV and radio ads that will be very emotional and not factual,” he said. “We’ll try to appeal to people’s reason. There’s nothing here that would have stopped the tragic shooting in Parkland (Florida). This law isn’t going to solve all the problems.”
A No on 1639 political committee formed May and reported $14,432 in contributions as of Friday. The National Rifle Association created an opposition committee in late June, but had not reported any contributions or pledges.
Meanwhile, the Second Amendment Foundation is continuing its efforts to get the petitions tossed.
It sued last month, alleging they are not valid because signers couldn’t know how the proposed ballot language altered existing state law. They claim sponsors failed to clearly show the changes the initiative would make.
The group asked the state Supreme Court to act but a court commissioner dismissed their action and left it in the hands of Secretary of State Kim Wyman to accept or reject initiative petitions.
Late Friday, a statement issued by Wyman’s office indicated the petitions may violate a section of state law requiring a “readable, full, true, and correct” copy of the proposed measure be printed on the reverse side of the petition — which is what opponents assert.
But the statement said state law does not provide Wyman with the authority to enforce the provision and reject petition sheets that may not meet the requirement.
Gottlieb has said once petitions are in, the group will try again to get the high court to consider the complaint.