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Dueling initiative campaigns cross the finish line

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Backers of Initiative 591, the single-page measure that prohibits government gun confiscation without due process and requires that background checks done in Washington state comply with a uniform national standard, today are delivering some 9,100 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, one day after backers of an opposing measure dropped off their final petitions.

That was over and above the 340,000 turned in several weeks ago by I-591 backers.

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, left Bellevue a little after noon Friday with a case of signed petitions, headed to Olympia.

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that backers of Initiative 594, the 17-page gun control measure that some Times readers are beginning to view as a backdoor registration effort, turned in some 95,000 signatures. That’s on top of the 250,000 they submitted in October, but it may not be enough to surpass those submitted by the Protect Our Gun Rights coalition in November and today. That coalition includes CCRKBA, the Washington Arms Collectors, Hunters Heritage Council, Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association and the Washington State Rifle & Pistol Association.

Now the battle between the dueling initiatives enters a new phase, as they are first considered by the legislature and then, as most political observers believe, they are put on the November ballot where the people will decide.

Gottlieb told Examiner that he is proud of the grassroots effort that has so far gone into the I-591 campaign. Not nearly as well-funded as the opposition, POGR has raised just over $700,000 while the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has raised and spent more than $1.19 million. Ironically, e-mail appeals from WAGR have created the impression that they are up against a heavily-funded monolithic gun lobby, when the exact opposite is actually the case.

While this battle may appear to be confined to Washington State, there are strong hints that this is something of a “test case.” Gun prohibitionists have some very deep pockets in their corner, and that description is not confined to the well-heeled contributors who have already written checks in the $50,000 and $25,000 range. There have been indications for several months that billionaire former Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be spending big bucks in Washington and neighboring Oregon to push his gun control agenda.

If the initiative process works here, it will be tried elsewhere. Gun rights activists know this, so the cultural battleground will be north of the Columbia River and west of the Idaho border. This is where people will decide – as did their contemporaries in Colorado in September – whether they will determine their own lifestyle and future, or allow a relatively small bunch of wealthy elitists, supported by fellow gun grabbers in other states, make that decision for them.

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