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Another billionaire for gun control, another initiative to expand it

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Late yesterday, the Public Disclosure Commission’s website revealed a $500,000 contribution by Seattle billionaire Paul Allen to the Initiative 594 campaign, and the Seattle Times – which still imposes an apparent news blackout on law enforcement’s opposition to the 18-page gun control measure – quickly reported the development, which bodes ill for gun owners across the country.

Washington is the proverbial first step in an effort to push gun control initiatives in many states. Essentially, the Evergreen State is a petri dish in which gun prohibitionists will learn how well their gun control bacteria grows and spreads. Yesterday, anti-gunners in Nevada launched a signature gathering effort for a similar measure in the Silver State, ostensibly pushing “universal background checks.”

With Allen’s money in the game, fighting back is now a more daunting challenge for gun rights, hunting and law enforcement groups opposing I-594 and supporting their alternative. Initiative 591 is backed by a coalition that includes the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and other groups. It is supported by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the state’s oldest law enforcement group, and the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, plus seven current county sheriffs.

Allen has become the latest billionaire to throw money at restricting other people’s rights, activists suggest. He joins other Microsoft elites Steve Ballmer – the subject of a rather unflattering report in Sunday’s Seattle Times regarding his support of the Lakeside High School basketball program – and Bill Gates, along with investment capitalist Nick Hanauer and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; all big money people whose fortunes are now being used as weapons in the political battle over firearms.

Bloomberg’s $50 million Everytown for Gun Safety has yet to be a major presence, but his Mayors Against Illegal Guns donated $30,000 to the I-594 campaign. But all the money flowing into the I-594 campaign from Seattle-area elites has effectively put the lie to claims that they are up against a well-financed “gun lobby.”

The Nevada gun control effort is spearheaded by “Nevadans for Background Checks.” According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, backers include religious and law enforcement “leaders.” The Nevada measure, if it qualifies, will be presented to the Nevada Legislature in 2015. Lawmakers may then adopt it, or put it on the 2016 ballot, the newspaper said.

Anti-gunners in Nevada will learn from the initiative process in Washington, especially about money and messaging. If billionaires can essentially buy an election in the Evergreen State, and then the Silver State, gun rights organizations will suddenly be fighting expensive political brushfires everywhere.

That scenario could become a nightmare for the National Rifle Association. Their chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, told an audience at the group’s April convention that Bloomberg should “Stay out of our homes, stay out of our refrigerators and stay the hell out of our gun cabinets,” as noted by the Center for Public Integrity.

So far, the NRA has stayed out of the I-591 effort, and has not joined the coalition opposing I-594. Instead, NRA has set up its own group, with a reported initial bank account of $25,000. Their state liaison, Brian Judy, has been doing yeoman service, and his testimony opposing I-594 before a state Senate committee in January was devastating. NRA has also done an extensive critique of the measure.

Washington is the battleground state, and its importance cannot be understated. A victory for gun control here will likely lend huge momentum for similar efforts in other states. The importance of this election to gun prohibitionists can best be measured in the amount of money they’re willing to spend to win. It’s as if, one gun rights activist suggested, they’re establishing a price tag on the Second Amendment.

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