OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Advocates seeking to expand the use of background checks on gun sales in Washington state turned in more than 250,000 signatures on Wednesday, saying it's just the first batch of petitions they plan to continue to submit before a January deadline to qualify the initiative to the Legislature.
Eleven boxes of petitions for Initiative 594 were brought to the Secretary of State's election's office by supporters, many wearing "Yes on 594" stickers.
I-594 would require background checks for online sales and private transactions, such as those that occur at gun shows. The checks would be conducted at federally licensed firearm dealers, where people already must undergo such scrutiny before purchasing a new weapon.
Cheryl Stumbo, the sponsor of the measure, was wounded during a 2006 shooting at the Jewish Federation in Seattle that killed one woman and injured several others. Naveed Haq was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the rampage. Stumbo said that while Haq had passed a background check, "whether or not it would have affected my shooting, doesn't matter to me."
"This is about saving as many lives as we can," she said.
A counter campaign for a gun rights ballot measure is still collecting signatures, and supporters of that initiative said Wednesday they will have enough signatures to turn in before the deadline.
Initiative 591 would prevent Washington state from adopting background check laws that are more restrictive than the federal standard. It would also prohibit any confiscation of firearms without due process.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman for Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a spokesman for Protect Our Gun Rights, said that I-591 is "a pushback that stops the assaults on gun owners' civil rights."
"We're here to protect their rights," he said.
Initiatives require at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state's office suggests at least 320,000 as a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures. Supporters of I-594 said that their goal is to turn in 325,000 signatures before the end of the year.
If either measure does get enough signatures, lawmakers will have the option of adopting them. Otherwise they will be on the ballot in November 2014.
Washington state lawmakers had considered a measure similar to I-594 earlier this year, but it didn't pass either the House or the Senate. I-594 does not include some of the exemptions that lawmakers had been considering. For example, law enforcement officers or people who have concealed pistol licenses still would have to go through background checks on private transactions under the initiative.
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Initiative 594: http://wagunresponsibility.org
Initiative 591: http://wagunrights.org/tag/initiative-591