This fall Washington voters will be asked to vote of two firearms issues. Before you decide which - if either - of these measures to back PLEASE read this post. When it comes to laws, the Devil is always in the details - and these proposals are no exception. I will give you some facts that you are not likely to get on your local news or in the ads paid for by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates.
First let's look at the lower numbered and most simple initiative I-591:
1) I-591 was written by a gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb, WHO SUPPORTS UNIVERSAL, FEDERAL BACKGROUND CHECKS. Don't believe me? Here's a video of him taking this position at the NRA convention! Furthermore, Alan Gottlieb was involved in writing the Senate background check bill that failed. He supports expanding federal background checks to all sales in all 50 states - and, yes he has taken a huge amount of flak for it.
2) I-591 DOES NOT PREVENT UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS. What it does do is require that Washington simply use the federal background check system, already in nationwide use at every licensed firearms dealer. Washington could enact a universal background check system at any time.
3) I-591 prevents the illegal confiscation of firearms - while allowing confiscations done with due process of law. This simply means that if the police seize someone's firearm, they get their day in court.
4) I-591 has massive support from law enforcement (over 7500 police and sheriffs!)
5) I-591 is straightforward and only two pages long.
Now let's look at the other initiative, I-594:
1) I-594 is supported by a group of rich elites - including Bill and Melinda Gates, Nick and Lenore Hanauer, and someone whom the press has carefully avoided mentioning (or doesn't know about): Multi-Billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Why Bloomberg's involvement has been downplayed will become evident as we learn more about I-594.
2) I-594 was written by Michael Bloomberg's lawyers and is virtually identical (if not identical) to the law he forced through the Colorado legislature and that he paid to qualify in Nevada this year. It is 18 pages long and filled with "flypaper provisions" designed to entrap law abiding gun owners.
3) I-594's description, which is identical to that in the Nevada initiative, was ruled INTENTIONALLY DECEPTIVE by a Nevada court - which has required the backers to write an accurate description.
4) The opposition to I-594 is coordinated by the same people backing I-591 - and it is lead by background check advocate Alan Gottlieb. Why would someone who favors expansion of the federal background check system to all private sales oppose this initiative? Simple: IT'S MUCH MORE THAN A BACKGROUND CHECK INITIATIVE.
The opposition to is not limited to gun rights groups the largest law enforcement association in the state, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, has voted to oppose I-594 and has endorsed I-591. The Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Assocaition has also come out in opposition.
Law enforcement endorsements are limited to a few individuals - NOT ONE LAW ENFORCEMENT ORGANIZATION IS SUPPORTING I-594!!! However, the backers of I-594 want you to think that there is much more law enforcement support than their really is. On their own law enforcement page they have included two sections on background check expansion in general - not I-594: "In-State Law Enforcement Support For Strengthening Our Background Check System" and "Regional And National Support For Background Checks On All Gun Sales". As we have seen, it is very possible to favor background checks on private sales and still oppose I-594 - and since I-594 imposes background checks in many situations not involving sales, it is likely that some of the people listed in these sections might oppose the initiative. MORE DECEPTION - BLOOMBERG'S STOCK IN TRADE.
One reason why this measure is opposed by law enforcement is that instead of simply using the federal system, I-594 requires the local police to conduct a background check. When this was done under the old system in California, departments were overwhelmed. San Francisco PD and who knows how many other departments simply did not do checks - effectively approving everyone.
5) I-594 is massive, draconian, likely unconstitutional, gun control bill masquerading as a background check bill.
When most people think of background checks they think of the federal system - which in most cases is completed in a few minutes. Or the California system that I am familiar with - buyer and seller meet at a gun dealer, pay him the state controlled $35.00 fee and the buyer comes back in two weeks and picks up the gun (assuming they pass). No system other than the one Bloomberg pushed through in Colorado, requires a background check on anything other than a transfer of ownership.
Here are some examples of how I-594 would impact much more than private gun sales - AND NONE OF THIS IS DISCLOSED ON THE BALLOT:
a) I take you to the forest to go shooting. I hand you one of my guns so you can shoot it under my direct supervision. You hand it back to me so I can show you how to shoot it more accurately. I demonstrate a better shooting position and hand it back to you so you can try shooting it again. Under I-594, both of us have committed a felony.
b) A volunteer is conducting a Hunter Safety course - which is governed by international standards. As required by these standards, he passes several safety checked firearms around the classroom so that the student can become familiar with the different types of firearms used in hunting. Under I-594, the instructor and every student has committed multiple felonies.
c) I take my 18 year old son hunting with me. Because he doesn't yet own a firearm, I let him use one of mine. I decide to stay put, hoping the game will come to me - my son keeps looking. We meet up later and he gives me my gun back. Under I-594, both of us have committed a crime.
d) My son has small children. He asks me if it is OK to keep his guns at my house - something recommended by my home state of California as a safety measure (and something I have done for my son). He drops them off and later picks them up on the way to the range. Under I-594, we have both committed felonies.
e) Years ago, I taught my daughter how to shoot and safely handle firearms. One night a stalker tries to break into her apartment. She asks to borrow one of my firearms. I honor her request. After buying her own gun (and passing a background check and waiting 30 days), she returns my firearm. If I-594 passes, we have both committed felonies. This would be legal even under my native California's restrictive gun laws, as long as the loan did not exceed 30 days. This would be ample time for her to obtain her own firearm.
f) You ask to see one of my guns because you are thinking of buying one and you want to see if it is a good "fit". I open my gun safe and hand you the gun. After you check it out you had it back to me. You guessed it - under I-594, we both committed a felony.
g) My friend - whom I know to be safe and competent with firearms - offers to take our teenage sons shooting. I give permission. We have both committed crimes.
h) Unbelievably, it would be illegal for one police officer to lend another police officer a firearm for off duty use, without a background check (and waiting period). So, if a cop's only concealable handgun is in for servicing, he or she has to risk not carrying. I sure hope they don't run into anyone they have arrested!
Don't believe me? No problem - here is what the independent site BallotPedia says I-594 will do: "The measure will also criminalize, with few exceptions, all temporary transfers of possession of firearms that do not involve purchases, such as for safekeeping, hunting, loan, recreational sharing, safety training, coaching, transport, etc."
How can a background check bill create so many crimes? Simple: It's not about background checks at all - IT IS ABOUT MAKING OWNING A GUN SO LEGALLY DANGEROUS THAT FEW WILL EXERCISE THEIR RIGHT TO DO SO. As such it is as unconstitutional as a law discouraging people from voting, practicing their religion or speaking out on issues of concern to them.
Surely this must be a matter simply a poorly written proposal, the authors didn't intentionally do this, right? Well, a lot of bad gun bills are written out of ignorance - but this is not one of them. Remember, this laws is almost exactly like the Colorado law passed in 2013. The same lawyer wrote it. All of these effects were pointed out before and immediately after its passage. Now you can see why so many Colorado lawmakers were recalled - and why 54 of Colorado's 61 sheriffs have announced that they will not enforce it.
The people behind this initiative know very well what the effects will be - they just do not want you to know what they will be, not before you vote on it anyway.
How do they do this? Simple: They redefine the term "transfer". In all other firearms laws (and most other laws as well) the word "transfer" means a change of ownership. This is true of federal law and state laws here in California (where we indeed have universal background checks). Instead, I-594 defines a "transfer" so broadly that it includes virtually every time a gun is passed from one person to another - even for a moment. Even if the owner is supervising the person he or she hands it to.
While it is true that some exceptions are provided, they are intentionally written very narrowly. Sadly, we have a lot of experience with "exception based" state gun laws in states like New Jersey. The problem with exception based systems is that you are effectively guilty until you prove yourself to be innocent because the "transfer" fits into one of the exceptions. For instance, there is an exemption for shooting ranges. Sounds simple - until you are arrested and the DA says that the facility you were shooting at is not a range. You then have to prove that it indeed is a range under I-594 - and if you fail, you go to jail. New Jersey has a law exempting moving between residences from it's total gun possession ban - yet a man doing just that was convicted and sent to prison when the judge ruled that the exemption did not apply. He is only out because Gov. Christie commuted his sentence in the interest of justice.
Now you understand why the opposition to this bill is lead by someone who supports universal background checks. But wait there's more.......
I-594's required record keeping will create a de facto gun registration system. Maybe you favor that. Fine, we have that in California - but it was passed openly and honestly - not misrepresented as a "background check" bill. More deception.
6) The measure has the potential to cost Washington state hundreds of millions to a billion dollars or more in legal fees and damages.
I follow gun laws - and normal background check bills are certainly constitutional. This bill - with it's deceptive provisions and "flypaper provisions" likely is not. Additionally, the DC Court of Appeals - a liberal leaning court - has ruled that registration of long guns is unconstitutional. What will the courts think of a registration law sold as merely "background checks"?
There are several aspects of the bill that are simply designed to discourage people from exercising their 2nd Amendment rights. This likely will result in much more than simply attorneys fees - but punitive damages as well. When cities like Chicago are being forced to write checks into the tens of millions, just for attorneys fees - imagine what the damages will be if a state the size of Washington loses a civil rights lawsuit - and make no mistake, it may take going all the way up to SCOTUS - but if this passes Washington state will lose. Like it or not, owning a firearm is, to quote the McDonald decision from SCOTUS, a right "fundamental to our system of ordered liberty".
The increased waiting period for purchasing a firearm is also likely unconstitutional, since they prevent people from acquiring a firearm for up to 30 days - even if they are purchasing one due to a need to defend themselves - a constitutional right under the 2nd Amendment as affirmed in the Heller and McDonald decisions by the Supreme Court. In fact, in the digital age where a background check can be done in minutes, all waiting periods are likely unconstitutional infringements upon the public's 2nd Amendment rights.