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Gun, Insurance Measures Pass Muster Battle Brewing Between Gun-Control, Gun-Rights Advocates

Washington voters will decide in November if handgun buyers should be subject to new safety rules and if health care consumers should have the right to keep their doctors when they change insurers.

Secretary of State Ralph Munro’s office said the two separate initiatives both contained enough valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot.

The staff is still counting signatures for two more initiative proposals, one to legalize marijuana for medical use and another to ban job discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Backers of Initiative 676, dealing with handgun safety, submitted 198,559 valid signatures of registered voters. Supporters of Initiative 673, imposing new requirements on medical insurers, turned in 195,380.Initiative 676 would bar purchase of a handgun without a trigger-locking device or a lockbox in which to store the gun. It also would require that handgun buyers show proof they had taken and passed a course on handgun safety.

Jean Gardner, former Washington first lady and a leader in the initiative campaign, said she was anticipating a bloody battle with gun-rights advocates, who oppose the measure as excessive regulation.

“I was hoping they wouldn’t fight it,” she said. “This initiative isn’t any kind of a control or ban on guns. I was hoping they could see that. It’s like driving a car. Would you like to be going down the freeway with somebody who doesn’t have any training driving a car? I don’t think so.”

Moreover, too many children are killed each year when they find their parents’ loaded guns and shoot themselves or playmates, she said.

Joe Waldron, a gun-rights champion and chairman of Washington Citizens Against Regulatory Excess, said the measure would require lengthy and costly classes for gun owners and would be expensive for the state to enforce.

“The initiative is being misrepresented and goes much further than the promoters indicate it does,” Waldron said. “There is a place for trigger locks, and there is a place for safety training, but I don’t think it should be a requirement for everybody.”

Initiative 673 would do three things. It would give people the ability to choose their own doctor or to keep their current doctor if they changed jobs or health plans, if the doctor agreed to the rules of the patient’s new plan.

The initiative also would require insurance companies to disclose any restrictions or limitations on coverage. It would make managed care providers disclose the percentage of a patient’s bill going to health care and the percentage going for administration and other overhead costs.