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Gloves come off in Washington gun control battle

Alan Gottlieb is interviewed by KIRO in response to a new gun control advertisement airing in the Seattle area.
Alan Gottlieb is interviewed by KIRO in response to a new gun control advertisement airing in the Seattle area.
Dave Workman

A new 30-second advertisement featuring a Colorado police sergeant promoting the concept at the heart of an 18-page gun control measure on the November ballot is scheduled to begin airing today in the Seattle area, and it quickly brought a gloves-off reaction from the Evergreen State’s leading gun rights advocate.

The spot, produced by a group calling itself the Center for Gun Responsibility, a 501(c)(3), is the first televised shot in a battle between two initiatives that will be undoubtedly heating up over the next 2 ½ months. It is a slick advertisement that Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said is “disingenuous.”


UPDATE: The Seattle Times is reporting that a spokeswoman for the Center is insisting that the advertisement is not connected to the I-594 campaign. Molly Boyajian told the newspaper that the $1 million campaign is designed to “start an informed conversation” about background checks. The IRS does not allow such non-profit groups to campaign for ballot measures or political candidates,the newspaper noted.

She also reportedly acknowledged that the “primary” funding source for the campaign is Nick Hanauer, who is also the biggest contributor to the I-594 campaign. According to the Public Disclosure Commission, Hanauer has contributed more than $300,000 to pass the gun control measure. He is among about 15 wealthy individuals who have put up about one-third of the total I-594 campaign war chest.


Gottlieb is spearheading the campaign for Initiative 591, a simple one-page measure that prohibits government gun confiscation without due process, and requires background checks in Washington to comply with a uniform national standard. It is supported by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) and the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA).

Those law enforcement organizations, representing some 7,500 police officers and sheriffs’ deputies, are also opposing the competing measure, Initiative 594, an 18-page gun control package promoting so-called “universal background checks (UBC).” However, it also expands the waiting period on handgun purchases from five to ten days, and makes it a crime to loan a firearm to anyone who is not an immediate family member without a check. The new television spot pushes UBCs without specifically mentioning I-594 or I-591.

In an interview with KIRO Eyewitness News, the CBS affiliate in Seattle, Gottlieb quickly noted that the gun control group “had to go to Colorado to find a police officer” to appear in the spot, because police here are opposed to the measure the advertisement clearly supports, without even mentioning it by title. Gottlieb told KIRO he is not against background checks “if they are done right.”

The Colorado cop appearing in the new gun control advertisement is the same man over whose name the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility – the group bankrolling the I-594 campaign – sent an e-mail May 17 asking recipients to “Thank a Sheriff.”

Evergreen State gun rights activists might suggest doing exactly that, by thanking the sheriffs in seven counties, four in eastern Washington and three in western Washington for endorsing I-591.