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War of words enters new phase in dueling initiatives campaign

Bellevue gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb is appealing to grassroots gun owners to battle a wealthy Seattle-based gun control effort.
Dave Workman

Thursday’s press conference by backers of Initiative 594, the so-called “universal background check” measure, might want to explain how their proposal would have prevented last night’s slaying of a White Center teen, or any other crime.

During today’s press event, postponed from Tuesday due to the tragic KOMO helicopter crash on the street in front of Fisher Plaza, prosecutors Mark Roe from Snohomish County and Dan Satterberg from King County both acknowledged that if passed, the 18-page gun control measure will not be a panacea to violent crime.

Following today’s gathering, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which has already out-raised and out-spent backers of Initiative 591 by almost a two-to-one margin, sent out an e-mail appeal for money. Signed by campaign manager Zach Silk, the message warned that the “gun lobby” will be spending “millions of dollars” on the upcoming battle.

That’s an odd assertion, considering that all the really big money so far has been coming from the Seattle-centric backers of I-594. Initiative 591 has so far garnered small contributions from gun owners all over the state.

Silk’s appeal came right on the heels of the press conference’s conclusion, and hours after gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb sent out an e-mail appeal for funds to support the I-591 effort. Writing for Protect Our Gun Rights, Gottlieb noted that the other measure is being supported by “rich elites,” including former anti-gun New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His Mayors Against Illegal Guns cut a $30,000 check in December for the I-594 effort, one of several anti-gun expenditures he made last year. Gottlieb, reaching out to blue collar gun owners, understands that this is a David v. Goliath fight.

Silk’s e-mail promises to have 126,380 voters organized by the end of August, which he estimates is ten percent of the number required to pass I-594.

Gottlieb’s e-mail counters, “Our pockets are definitely not as deep as Bloomberg’s. But our voices are many. And we stand together ready to speak the truth to all citizens and voters here in Washington State.”

A major difference between the two competing measures is that I-591 will prohibit government firearms seizures without due process of law. There is nothing about protecting the rights of gun owners in I-594, just details about who must undergo a background check in order to transfer (not buy or sell, necessarily, but to loan or borrow) a firearm. Those who dismiss confiscations as a non-existent bogeyman evidently expect people to forget the outrage following Hurricane Katrina, where private firearms were seized, sometimes at gunpoint, and not returned for upwards of a year.

That happened without warrant or probable cause. In Washington, the governor has emergency powers to prohibit someone from carrying a firearm outside their home or business during a state of emergency. That’s just when citizens might need a firearm because it is likely help will not be coming and citizens would be on their own. Where Louisiana has hurricanes, the Northwest is – according to some people – overdue for a major earthquake.

New gun laws in Connecticut, New York and California have opened the door to confiscation or forced surrender of firearms that were previously legal, but are now contraband with the stroke of a pen. Gun owners are already receiving notices to get rid of their newly-illegal guns or turn them in.

There are already predictions that the battle between gun rights and gun control supporters is going to get brutal. That fight could boil down to one side protecting gun rights from the other side the believe is trying to erode them.


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