Seattle-based anti-gunners, calling themselves the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR), have announced plans for a big-money campaign to push their agenda, first with lawmakers in Olympia and then possibly with an initiative campaign, the Seattle Times and KPLU reported.
The effort is apparently being bankrolled by Nick Hanauer, described by the Seattle Times as a “venture capitalist.” Named as WAGR organizers are Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw, former Seattle Councilwoman Tina Podlodowski, Seattle-King County Health Director David Fleming and local activist Eric Liu, “who wrote a book with Hanauer in 2007,” according to the Times.
But the Times left out another interesting fact about Liu. According to the True Patriot Network website, he “served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President's deputy domestic policy adviser.”
WAGR is being advised by Democratic consultant Christian Sinderman, and they have hired lobbyist Zach Silk, who managed the gay marriage campaign last year. One might observe that you don’t hire a campaign manager unless you’re planning a campaign.
Podlodowski first hinted about this in a December Crosscut column, as reported by Examiner here. WAGR is reportedly working with Washington CeaseFire, and their first target is background check legislation. Times readers chime in here.
That this effort comes now may not be so much of a mystery, considering recent news on gun legislation. Much of it, including a proposed ban on so-called “assault rifles,” died last week following an embarrassing revelation about the Senate bill that would have allowed unscheduled visits to the homes of gun owners by sheriff’s deputies, to inspect – without a warrant – how someone is storing their firearms.
What remains is a background check measure that is getting considerable input from a local gun rights leader. Gun prohibitionists are not happy with this development because they historically have endeavored to shut gun owners out of the process. Instead of a give-and-take exchange, they present a wish list of demands, offering gun owners nothing in exchange beyond more regulations. When the firearms community doesn’t roll over and capitulate, they are portrayed as “extremists.”
Background checks are a toxic subject with some gun owners, but Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, has opened a dialogue with state lawmakers. He took some heat from a few gun activists, but his efforts may head off a political war and bring some benefits to the firearms community.
Gottlieb, as this column reported, put forth several conditions, including abolishment of the state’s pistol registry, exemptions for concealed pistol license holders and for transactions between family members, no record keeping on transactions after the check is completed, and an exemption for transactions at gun shows where members already go through a background check as a membership requirement.
It may be Gottlieb’s success at getting the interest of some lawmakers that helped ignite the WAGR push.
Crime data suggests that criminals are not affected by such regulations, and a controversial memo done by an official with the National Institute of Justice – and obtained by the National Rifle Association – suggests that background checks are not a panacea to crime, and might even require gun registration.
“A perfect universal background check system,” the memo says, “can address the gun shows and might deter many unregulated private sellers. However, this does not address the largest sources (straw purchasers and theft), which would most likely become larger if background checks at gun shows and private sellers were addressed. The secondary market is the primary source of crime guns.”
The report further reveals, “Straw purchasers are the primary source of crime guns. Importantly, straw purchasers have no record of a prohibiting offense. As a result, they are quite different from those who actually commit crimes. Consistent with criminological theory, because the person conducting the straw purchase does not have a criminal history forbidding him or her from making legal purchases, this population could potentially be deterred from initiating this illegal activity.
“Because straw purchasers are the largest source for the illicit market and these purchasers likely can be deterred,” the memo adds, “effort should be focused here. There is little evidence on what works…”
If this push is an attempt to derail the current spirit of cooperation between a leading gun rights advocate and state lawmakers over a thorny political issue, it might backfire in Olympia. The Seattle Times said WAGR participants say it is “too early to talk about an initiative campaign.”
It’s a safe bet they are thinking about it.