Backers of a move to make it harder to get some semi-automatic firearms said they turned in more than enough signatures last week to get on the ballot for November.
Advocates from the Alliance for Gun Responsibility say they handed in some 360,000 signatures to the Washington Secretary of State’s Office last week for validation to put I-1639 on the upcoming ballot. The initiative, which needs just over 259,000 approved signatures to be greenlighted for the coming general election, aims to strip gun rights from those under 21 as well as up the requirements to purchase guns such as AR-15s.
“We’re asking that it should be at least as hard to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle as it is to purchase a handgun,” said campaign manager Stephen Paolini. “Folks are desperate for change.”
The initiative changes the definition under Washington law of an “assault rifle” to effectively regulate all semi-auto long arms other than shotguns. The new requirements proposed alongside the definition would bar sales to those under 21 altogether. Those seeking to purchase an AR-15 or similar firearm would have to pass an enhanced background check, show proof of training, pay up to a $25 fee, and wait at least 10 days before picking up the gun from a dealer. There would be no exception to those who already have a concealed carry permit or have legally purchased a rifle before.
Gun rights groups have sued I-1639 backers twice already this year — once over the ballot title itself, and a second time contending AGR failed to meet state requirements for the petitions used to collect signatures. Last week the Washington Supreme Court turned away the petition challenge, for the time being, arguing the decision on the validity of the signatures collected belongs to Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican in the middle of her second term in office.
“As Secretary of State, it is my duty to fairly and impartially evaluate all petitions so Washington voters can fully exercise their Constitutional rights,” Wyman said in a statement. “State law clearly defines the authority my office has for accepting or rejecting petitions. We are diligent in making sure those requirements are met. That’s our responsibility to every Washingtonian.”
The editorial board of The Kitsap Sun on Sunday argued that each side of the debate on I-1639 should abide by Wyman’s decision, regardless of what she decides. “If the initiative is accepted, let the campaign continue with the opposition making its best case to convince voters; if rejected, supporters should go back to the drawing board with petitions that are legally constructed,” said the board.