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High noon at the Westin today, another I-594 ‘kickoff’

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UPDATED: Monday’s noon campaign kickoff for Initiative 594 came on the heels of yesterday’s Seattle Times report on “skyrocketing” concealed pistol licenses (CPL) in Washington, and ten days after the Isla Vista attack demonstrated that the so-called “universal background check” (UBC) scheme at the core of the well-financed gun control measure does not prevent the kind of crime its backers use as an example for why voters should pass it, gun rights advocates say.

The I-594 campaign event was held at Seattle’s Westin Hotel and featured an appearance by Carlee Soto, sister of courageous Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who died while trying to protect her students. It was sponsored by the Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR).

Buried in the Sunday Times article was an interesting observation from the Rev. Sandy Brown, pastor at the First United Methodist Church. An I-594 supporter, he said gun rights have “expanded” since Barack Obama was elected president, while crime has gone down. If crime has declined while more people are buying and carrying guns, doesn’t that suggest that it is good for more people to be armed?

Still, gun prohibitionists are throwing their influence behind this initiative. If it passes here, there is nothing to stop similar measures from popping up all over the country. Billionaire anti-gunner Michael Bloomberg has pledged $50 million to essentially make it happen.

Sandy Hook happened in Newtown, Conn. That state had some of the toughest gun laws in the nation at the time of the attack, and they’ve gotten tougher. The laws did not prevent that tragedy.

Their buildup to Monday’s media event on the WAGR website complained that “the politicians in Olympia and Washington, D.C. have failed to take real action to reduce gun violence. But we stepped up and this November, Washington voters will vote on a simple, commonsense reform that will make us all safer.”

Except that this so-called “commonsense reform” won’t do that at all, say I-594 opponents. The California attack provided ample evidence that a UBC is a false guarantee of public safety. In Santa Barbara, the alleged killer cleared three background checks and as many waiting periods, and used only magazines whose capacities were limited by law.

That disparity between fact and wishful thinking may explain why there is a growing interest in concealed carry, especially among women, and the newspaper said the phenomenon mirrors a national trend. More than 100,000 of the CPLs now in circulation were issued to women, the Times noted.

Examiner checked with the Department of Licensing Monday. There are 457,032 active CPLs currently, which represents the first decline in that number in more than two years. It's down 302 from last month's 457,344 licenses reported May 2. However, a source at the DOL noted via e-mail that, "The numbers are always changing, they go up and down by the day. Every day old licenses are expiring and new ones are coming in to us, by law enforcement through the online system and the mail."

Perhaps most questionable of all the WAGR statements in its publicity is the portrayal of the gun prohibition movement as the underdog. “To defeat the gun lobby's massive political money machine, we're going to need to organize neighbor to neighbor, street by street, and workplace by workplace,” they argue.

Yet a look at the Public Disclosure Commission reports so far for I-594 and an alternative measure, Initiative 591 – supported by a grassroots coalition of hunters, law enforcement professionals, gun collectors and competitors – shows that WAGR is far better off financially. Still to come is Washington’s share of Bloomberg’s $50 million “Everytown for Gun Safety” bankroll.

If the gun prohibition lobby is being dishonest about finances, gun rights activists suggest they’re not being candid about anything else. The next five months, between now and the election in November, will provide Evergreen State voters ample opportunity to figure that out.

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