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Hunters Hope To Send I-676 Down To Defeat

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 22, 1997

Will the vote on Initiative 676 be as lopsided as the vote on Initiative 655?

It could, even though opponents of 676, the initiative that would give handgun owners headaches, are outspending the people who want pistol owners to pay $25 periodically to renew handgun licenses and have locking devices on their guns.

The key to what happens to I-676 may be the vote in the heavily populated areas around Puget Sound. The overwhelming vote in favor of I-655 in coastal urban areas was a big factor in ending the use of bait by bear hunters and the use of hounds while hunting big cats and bears.

Anti-hunters convinced the majority of the state’s voters that the use of hounds was unfair to the animals. Even a high percentage of Spokane County residents voted in favor of I-655. Bear and cougar hunters did what they could to counter the distortions by the anti-hunters, but they didn’t get the full support of their fellow hunters.

Too many hunters stayed on the sidelines. But perhaps opponents of I-655 didn’t have much of a chance to win. The anti-hunters outspent the hunters three to one. In addition, most city folk, many of whom had little sympathy for hunters, voted their emotions.

Many hunters and others learned a lesson. This time around, a number of Eastern Washington hunters and those who believe they have a right to keep handguns in their homes without excessive government interference are going all out to defeat I-676, a measure that would do little to protect youngsters from handgun accidents.

An overwhelming majority of the people who have written letters to the editor of this newspaper are against the initiative. That may or may not be an indication of how most voters feel about the measure. However, the fact that perhaps a majority of Eastern Washington residents own handguns could mean that most of the region’s residents will reject the initiative.

Until the National Rifle Association entered the fight against the initiative, proponents had the most money to spend for their cause. The association now has committed $1.3 million to fighting the initiative.

Significantly, the NRA is spending the most money in the urban areas of King, Pierce, Snohomish and Thurston counties. Officials know they must convince most of the residents of those counties that passage of the initiative won’t significantly cut down the number of accidental children’s deaths.

As might be expected, proponents of the initiative cried foul when the NRA entered the fight. They said Washington residents don’t need outsiders coming into the state to tell Washingtonians how to vote. They neglected to say that the voters don’t need wealthy people to influence the vote. Some who contributed big money to defeat the measure are wealthy. One, Bill Gates, is a billionaire.

Supporters of I-676 contend that passage of the initiative will result in fewer accidents in homes. They’ve been distorting surveys made the last few years.

Actually, although the number of firearms in homes has increased dramatically the last 25 years, the number of accidental firearms fatalities dropped from a high of 1,400 in 1974 to 800 in 1995. The drop is partly attributable to an increased awareness that guns must be handled carefully and that they must be kept away from children.

Most parents don’t keep loaded guns where children can find them and play with them. A few of those who have been careless have paid a terrible price.

Even the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute has pointed out that people who fail to take special safety measures shouldn’t have a gun in the home.

“Keeping a gun to defend your family necessitates strict adherence to safe and responsible firearms storage and handling techniques,” the institute warned in a recent publication.

“Your most important responsibility is ensuring that children cannot encounter loaded firearms. The precautions must be completely effective. Most fatal home firearms accidents occur when youngsters, often children who do not live in the home, discover firearms that have been left loaded and unsecured.”

Passage of I-676 almost certainly would result in a massive, costly bureaucracy. Handgun owners know they’ll be the ones who will pay for the bureaucracy and they suspect that costs will be so high that the state will have no other choice but to increase license fees.

And almost certainly thousands of people who now own handguns won’t comply with the law. Even well educated, normally law-abiding people have told me they won’t file for a license.

You can bet that if I-676 passes, the law will be one of the most unpopular in the state’s history.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Fenton Roskelley The Spokesman-Review

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