The possibility exists that two rival gun initiatives in Washington, diametrically opposed

The possibility exists that two rival gun initiatives in Washington, diametrically opposed

The possibility exists that two rival gun initiatives in Washington, diametrically opposed to the other, could both prevail in November and throw one heck of a monkey wrench into resolving the contentious issue of whether the state will impose background checks on all guns sales.

Initiative 594 would require background checks for all gun sales and transfers in Washington state, including at gun shows and for private sales. Under the measure, some exemptions would exist, including gifts within a family and antiques. Supporters have now raised more than $7.3 million.

The rival campaign, Initiative 591, would prevent the state from adopting background-check laws that go beyond the national standard, which requires the checks for sales by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers. They have raised just over $1 million.

And so what happens if they both pass?

“We don’t know,” Hugh Spitzer, a renown University of Washington law professor tells Seattle Weekly. “We’ve never had anything like this before. The [state] Supreme Court offers us no guidance on how to resolve competing initiatives. And there is no way to reconcile the two initiatives.”

An expert on constitutional law, Spizer speculates that the high court may choose to side with the initiative that gets the most votes, if both were to pass.

In April, a poll showed the universal background check measure with a lead of 72 percent, compared with I-591’s 55 percent support.

The most recent Elway poll, taken in July, again showed 594 with a sturdy level of support at 70 percent, with 591 dropping below the majority needed to win, with 46 percent.

Still, voter confusion could very well result in both measures winning.

Posits Spitzer, “I’ll bet only about 1 percent of the people out there know the difference between and 591 and 594.”

Says I-594 spokesman Geoff Potter, “It is our view that sewing confusion is an important part of the 591 strategy.”

He may have a point. Alan Gottlieb, who chairs the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, had this to say in a radio interview with Jeff Rhodes of Freedom Daily

on Aug. 25.

Rhodes: What do you expect to happen if they lose? You don’t imagine that the issue is going to go away.

Gottlieb: Well, I don’t believe that there is a way to beat Initiative 594. I’ll be really up and honest with about it, because of the millions of dollars they have already on hand to to buy advertising in the next few weeks. So my hope is I get 591 across the finish line and then we can get this to court and settle this out in a resonable manner.

Meanwhile, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility launched its TV advertising campaign last week to promote Initiative 594. The ad, titled “Prevent,” features former Bellingham Chief of Police Don Pierce. Citing FBI data in the ad, Pierce credits current background check laws with stopping more than 40,000 people — “felons, domestic abusers, you name it” — from purchasing guns in Washington state. 

Also, former Microsoft CEO and new Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated another $250,000 to a campaign seeking to expand background checks on gun sales in Washington state.

The donation brings the couple’s total amount of support to Initiative 594 to $830,000.

The donation is the most recent big money gift from prominent figures, including Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

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