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Gates’ $1M donation to gun control fires up the grassroots

Bill and Melinda Gates, shown here in a Sun Valley, Idaho visit, added $1 million to the I-594 gun control campaign and it is causing a backlash.
Bill and Melinda Gates, shown here in a Sun Valley, Idaho visit, added $1 million to the I-594 gun control campaign and it is causing a backlash.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yesterday’s announcement in the Seattle Times and Seattle P-I.com about the $1 million contribution from Bill and Melinda Gates to the Initiative 594 campaign appears to have ignited a grassroots backlash among people who will not go quietly into the night, and what they lack in dollars, they make up for in numbers and votes.

The Times actually did two separate announcements, both of which have ignited spirited arguments among responding readers. Gun rights activists are alarmed and furious over what appears to be an effort by a handful of billionaire elitists to buy an election that they believe will erode their gun rights and privacy rights. Gun prohibitionists defending I-594 quickly resorted to name-calling, suggesting gun owners are paranoid.

This morning, KVI’s John Carlson said that he Achilles Heel of I-594 – the 18-page gun control measure being pushed by the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which has raised more than $6 million – is the language about “transfers.” This measure is about much more than doing background checks on gun sales.

As reported before in this column, according to the language on Page 7 of I-594, “The background check requirement applies to all sales or transfers including, but not limited to, sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.” On Page 6, the term “transfer” is specifically and clearly defined to mean “the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.”

Carlson may be right, or perhaps only half-right, thanks to yesterday’s federal court ruling in California regarding that state’s waiting periods. As this column reported, Senior Judge Andrew W. Ishii of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, a Bill Clinton appointee, yesterday ruled that the state’s ten-day waiting period is unconstitutional “as applied to those individuals who successfully pass” the state’s background check prior to the ten days, and who are already in lawful possession of an additional firearm, and for individuals who pass the background check and who possess a valid CCW license.”

By interesting coincidence, I-594 seeks to change Washington’s waiting period from five to ten business days. “However,” the measure explains on Page 10, “for sales and transfers of pistols if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid permanent Washington driver's license or state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, then the time period in this subsection shall be extended from ten business days to sixty days.”

The measure contains a caveat that allows a delivery of a firearm “to a purchaser or transferee” when “The results of all required background checks are known and the purchaser or transferee is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law.” But, again, this is not just about sales but “transfers,” and that could eat up lots of time. Critics of the initiative frequently contend that it is “poorly written.”

Several Northwest gun rights forums are now promoting small contributions to competing Initiative 591, backed by Protect Our Gun Rights. I-591, which has the support of two major state law enforcement groups and at least seven individual county sheriffs – an important point that I-594 proponents cannot claim – would require Washington State background checks to comply with a uniform national standard, while preventing government gun confiscations without due process.

Gun rights activists are raising questions about why a relatively small group of wealthy Seattle-area elitists are so intent to pass a restrictive gun control measure that they are willing to spend a fortune doing it. These people can afford private security which the “common folk” find economically out of their reach.

Columnist Joel Connelly writes in the Seattle P-I.com, “The initiative seems to have embarked on a ‘shock and awe’ campaign in recent weeks. At first it was ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and wife, Connie, donating $125,000 apiece. And then case $500,000 from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.” That term, “shock and awe,” applies to an act of war designed to unnerve, disorient and perhaps even terrorize the enemy.

Is that how the anti-gun billionaires think of their gun-owning neighbors, as the “enemy?” Do they think this “enemy” needs to be unnerved, disoriented and perhaps even terrorized by their millions of dollars? For more, read each of the suggested links below.

About 70 days remain to the November election. The next ten weeks could be both colorful and politically brutal.