Elections matter, and according to Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, this year’s mid-term election is “critical” to preserving the nation’s values, Newsmax reported yesterday.
Coincidentally, Seattle-area broadcasters will begin airing commercials sponsored by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) that promote Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure facing Evergreen State voters in November, the Associated Press is reporting. NRA opposes that measure, but so far has spent a pittance in comparison to the reported “hundreds of thousands” of dollars WAGR has paid to produce the 30-second advertisement that airs today.
LaPierre, speaking on air to Newsmax TV’s Steve Malzberg, talked about the NRA’s national advertising campaign. One advertisement that began airing more than two weeks ago takes a direct poke at anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has contributed more than $1 million to the I-594 campaign via his two gun control lobbying groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the newer Everytown for Gun Safety.
Many Evergreen State gun rights activists are waiting for NRA to take a more active local role in the effort against I-594, which seeks so-called “universal background checks” on all firearm transfers, not just sales. The WAGR ad reportedly features former Bellingham Police Chief Don Pierce, who was also formerly the executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, which so far has taken a neutral position on I-594.
On the other side are two organizations, the Washington Association of Police and Sheriffs and the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association, two rank-and-file groups that represent some 7,500 officers and deputies. They both oppose I-594 and support rival Initiative 591, for which advertisements began airing on Monday. I-591 also has the support of at least seven individual county sheriffs.
The Associated Press notes that I-594 “has several exemptions for the background-check requirement, including gifts within family members, temporary transfers between spouses, and the sale or transfer of antique guns.” However, critics argue that these exemptions are narrowly tailored, and that “would make illegal so much of what law-abiding gun owners do as they shoot socially and go hunting,” as noted the other day by best-selling author Frank Miniter, as reported by this column yesterday.
Opponents of the gun control measure say I-594 seeks to expand the state’s database on handguns, which could ultimately equate a de facto gun registry. As KVI morning drive time talk host John Carlson has often observed, many people believe there are only two reasons to register guns, to tax them or take them.
Some gun control proponents argue that there has never been an incident of sweeping gun confiscation, but that’s not true. LaPierre and Alan Gottlieb, who chairs the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and is the chief architect of I-591, could easily put the lie to that argument.
In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, they teamed up in a landmark court case in New Orleans to stop gun confiscations without warrants, due process or probable cause. This is the primary reason Gottlieb included a provision in I-591 that prohibits government gun confiscation without due process.
What attorneys for NRA and Gottlieb’s other group, the Second Amendment Foundation, discovered with their lawsuit was at least 1,100 firearms were arbitrarily confiscated by police in New Orleans and the surrounding Parrish, for no justifiable reason. Nobody has ever accepted responsibility for issuing that order, and in many cases, the gun owners never recovered their property, or the firearms were subjected to such conditions that they were damaged beyond repair.
In his Wednesday interview, LaPierre repeated something that he told Examiner months ago which underscores his contention that the November election is crucial. The nation, he asserted, is in trouble and people know it.
“Everywhere you go in the country over the last year or two people put their heads down and they go, 'I've never been worried about this country until now’,” LaPierre said. “They say it not with anger, but they say it with sadness in their eyes. There’s a sense of collapse, like the character of the country is at risk. It’s all gone off the rails.
“They feel vulnerable, and our freedoms are being diminished, and they feel like no one’s fighting back,” he said.
In the Evergreen State, however, the grassroots is fighting back. Gun owners feel besieged by billionaires including Bloomberg, who have dumped small fortunes into the I-594 campaign. Volunteers are contributing manpower where they lack millions of dollars. They are donating time, placing yard signs, handing out bumper stickers and educational materials, knocking on doors, ringing doorbells and making sure their friends and neighbors are registered to vote.
NRA has taken no position on I-591, and is instead concentrating on fighting the gun control measure. Gottlieb and his colleagues at Protect Our Gun Rights – the coalition that includes sportsmen and women, competitors, collectors, Second Amendment activists and law enforcement professionals – are pushing I-591. They are also cognizant that no billionaire is going to walk through the door with a million-dollar check, but they're getting lots of smaller contributions from blue-collar gun owners.
With a campaign war chest that is dwarfed by the sums collected largely from wealthy Seattle-area donors, it’s a classic David v. Goliath confrontation of philosophy. The next two months carry all the promise of a bare-knuckles political brawl between those who are fighting to win an election, and those who are trying to buy it.