Washington’s Initiative 594 requires universal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, including private and online sales.
Initial election results indicate passage is likely, and backers say they are energized by the presumed victory. The opposing measure to bar expanded background checks, Initiative 591, has fallen short of passing so far.
With I-594, Washington has joined a handful of other states that require universal background checks for gun sales. Supporters say this success is just the beginning of their efforts.
Sandy Brown is the president of the Seattle-based Center for Gun Responsibility, which was founded last year. He said his group will likely expand its efforts in research and advocacy to pass laws in other states.
“Absolutely we do see that there are other states where the same kind of advocacy, the same kind of energy and the same kind of ideas could take hold," he said at a press conference Wednesday in downtown Seattle.
The campaign for I-594 raised more than $10 million. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, gave millions. So did local philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates.
Brown defended the big donations, saying even without them I-594 had more local support than the opposing measure."If you took away all of the prominent citizens that gave in the six or seven figures, we still would have out-raised Initiative 591, probably four or five to one," he said.
Gun-rights groups raised nearly $2 million to defeat I-594 and support I-591.
According to the fiscal statement accompanying the ballot measure, the state's Department of Licensing does not plan to hire more staff to implement or enforce the background check requirements. Instead, Brown said it will be enforced by police and prosecutors. They will trace guns involved in violent crimes; the initiative includes criminal penalties for illegal gun sales and transfers.
Alan Gottlieb was the sponsor of the I- 591. He has said he will explore a legal challenge to I-594. Barring that lawsuit, the expanded background checks take effect when the election is certified next month.