Voters will decide on the most comprehensive gun reform in Washington state history this November.
Initiative I-1639 includes a collection of gun safety measures, most of which focus on semi-automatic rifles. The initiative would raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic rifle to 21-years-old, add enhanced background checks and a 10-day waiting period ahead of the purchase, and require buyers to go through firearm safety training first.
“The big thrust is making sure it is at least as hard to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle as it already to purchase a handgun,” said Stephen Paolini, Campaign Manager of the ‘Yes on 1639’ campaign.
I-1639 would also allow prosecutors to charge any gun owner with a Class C Felony if they fail to safely store their firearm and a “prohibited person,” such as a child or a felon, who may steal their gun and commit a crime. However, the gunowner would not be charged if they report the gun stolen within five days.
The goal is to encourage safe storage of firearms using anything from a trigger lock to a gun safe.
“The reality is, initiative 1639 will not end gun violence,” Paolini said. “It will not stop all gun violence, but it will cut at some of the really big components of it.”
A coalition has also formed in opposition of I-1639, including the NRA, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and Washington Arms Collectors.
The ‘No on I-1639’ Campaign called the initiative “vague” and “poorly written.”
“It’s not common sense,” ‘No on 1639’ Volunteer Jane Milhans said. “It doesn’t do anything for school safety. It’s deceitful.”
Milhans is also a firearms instructor, and said this initiative would prevent young women who prefer AR-15 style rifles from using the firearm of their choice for self-defense.
“I strongly believe it’s a woman’s right to own firearms for personal protection because it levels the fight between women and their attacker,” Milhans said.
The ‘No’ campaign also argues that enhanced background checks would compromise privacy laws regarding medical information, mandatory training could create an unfair cost to gun buyers, and that safe storage rules could slow self-defense and pose a danger in an emergency.
A recent statewide Crosscut/Elway poll found 59 percent of people support I-1639, while 34 percent oppose it, and seven percent remain undecided.
Three lawsuits were filed against the initiative, including one by the NRA. In August, a judge in Thurston County ruled in favor of the NRA and removed the initiative from the ballot, but the Washington State Supreme Court overruled that judge one week later, returning I-1639 to the ballot.
The campaign in favor of I-1639 has raised more than $4 million, with much of that coming from large donors like Paul Allen.