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Just how many political kick-offs do gun prohibitionists need?

By contrast to multiple media events for I-594, backers of I-591 launched their campaign once, when they delivered petitions to Olympia in December.
By contrast to multiple media events for I-594, backers of I-591 launched their campaign once, when they delivered petitions to Olympia in December.
Dave Workman

The Seattle-based Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) – the well-financed gun control group pushing Initiative 594 – has announced its noon campaign kick-off on June 2 at Seattle’s Westin Hotel, but this is not the first such event the organization has had since launching the effort more than a year ago.

In May 2013, as reported by Seattle columnist Joel Connelly at the time, the group held a big fund-raising initiative drive launch that raised $750,000. And that was two months after an event hosted by Seattle's First United Methodist Church.

One might wonder if WAGR is in the game or just running laps. According to the latest report from the state Public Disclosure Commission, WAGR has already raised more than $1.7 million, and spent $1.68 million of that. By contrast, Protect Our Gun Rights, the grassroots group pushing Initiative 591, has raised less than half that amount, and turned in more signatures on its petitions than the WAGR measure.

I-594 is an 18-page gun control measure that pushes so-called “universal background checks” using high-profile crimes that would not have been prevented by its own language as justification. I-591 is a simple two-sentence proposal that requires background checks done in Washington to comply with a uniform national standard. It also prohibits government gun confiscation without due process.

About 50 supporters of the gun control measure gathered earlier this week at Town Hall Seattle for a pep talk from Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. Town Hall prohibits firearms inside – which should have allayed any concerns about violent attack – and yet there was an armed security guard on hand. The hypocrisy has not been lost on gun rights activists across the country who read Examiner’s Tuesday report.

This is not to suggest Evergreen State gun prohibitionists are not active. This Sunday, they’re holding an RSVP “Gun Violence Prevention Summit” in Bellevue. It features a panel discussion, an “overview of gun violence” in the state, tips on how advocacy messaging, and more advice on the kinds of anti-gun strategies that have worked in other states.

This event is hosted by the Brady Campaign and the “Center for Gun Responsibility.” This new group is still building its website, and it has a (360) area code.

Presumably, WAGR’s June 2 “kick-off” will be yet another fund-raising affair, after which there will be more e-mail fund raising rhetoric about the “well-financed gun lobby” trying to buy the November election. Still, the lion’s share of support for the gun control initiative has come from Seattle and along the I-5 corridor, with a smattering of support from outside the Puget Sound region.

Smaller donations from gun rights supporters have come from all over the state, demonstrating that the firearms community may not be as well-endowed financially as the Seattle elite, but they make up for that with activism. The battle appears to be shaping up as Seattle against the rest of Washington. POGR is now quietly soliciting campaign contributions with a simple mail-in envelope campaign, along with accepting on-line contributions. Rather than spending money on "kick-off" events, they're building an election fund.

But the question remains. Just how many campaign kick-offs does one measure require? These largely appear to be media events for people with fat checkbooks who gather in places under the protection of armed security guards, while supporting an initiative that will further ratchet down on the rights of law-abiding citizens who take responsibility for their own safety.

Proponents of I-594 say it will prevent sales of firearms to people who shouldn’t have them. The language, however, addresses transfers of firearms – that is, loans and gifts, and even inheritances – with but few exemptions that do not include citizens with concealed pistol licenses.

Washington is being watched by gun prohibitionists. If this initiative maneuver works here, 2015 could see similar efforts in other states. That prospect is raising awareness among gun owners outside of the Pacific Northwest, who would be happy to stop this fight north of the Columbia River.

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