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Exclusive: WACOPS votes to oppose gun control initiative, back I-591

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The Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS), the state’s largest and oldest law enforcement group representing more than 4,500 active duty police officers and sheriff's deputies, dealt a serious blow to Evergreen State gun prohibitionists this morning, confirming to Examiner via telephone that it will oppose Initiative 594 and support Initiative 591, making it the second statewide law enforcement group to take that position.

WACOPS Executive Director Jamie Daniels told this column that a position statement from the organization will be released shortly. Examiner will update when that statement is available.

WACOPS joins the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) in opposing I-594, the 18-page gun control measure sponsored by the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR). By also supporting I-591, it lends important credibility to the argument by backers of that measure that there is a right way to conduct checks and keep guns out of the wrong hands, and I-594 is not the answer.

This announcement could be a serious blow to gun control proponents who have already spent more than $1.5 million to push their measure, which mandates so-called “universal background checks.” At the same time, the WACOPS vote comes as a major morale boost to the financially-strapped grassroots supporters of I-591, which is a far simpler measure, covering a single page that requires background checks to comply with a uniform national standard.

I-591 is sponsored by Protect Our Gun Rights (POGR), a coalition of gun collectors, sportsmen and women, target shooters and law enforcement professionals. It’s most vocal supporter is veteran gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Last Thursday in an interview with the Seattle Times editorial board, Gottlieb acknowledged authorship of the measure.

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UPDATE: Gottlieb has issued a statement thanking WACOPS for its support noting, “We’ve known I-591 had considerable support among line officers, and this makes it official. We also knew that street cops and deputies do not support the 18-page gun control measure being pushed by wealthy out-of-state and Seattle-area elitists.

“The gun prohibition lobby pushing I-594 falsely claims to have the facts on their side,” he said. “They not only don’t have the facts on their side, they don’t have the cops on their side, either.”

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The WACOPS decision came after members heard a debate between I-594 supporters and opponents last week at their annual members’ meeting in Bellevue. Appearing to support the measure were King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and WAGR lobbyist Rebecca Johnson Arledge. Opposing were Brian Judy, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, and NRA campaign field representative Adina Hicks.

Judy had a busy week in Washington. He joined Gottlieb for the I-594 debate before the Seattle Times board. Apparently his appearances were effective because, as Examiner reported Sunday, he was the focus of a fund-raising e-mail by WAGR, which is now demonizing the messenger as well as the message, some gun rights activists have suggested.

I-591 supporters were busy over the weekend at the Washington Arms Collectors gun show in Puyallup, handing out literature and bumper stickers. Among those volunteers was Winnie Chan, lead plaintiff in the successful lawsuit four years ago that prevented the City of Seattle from imposing an illegal gun ban in city park facilities. That case strengthened Washington’s model preemption firearms law.

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