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Group says it has 360,000 signatures to put gun-safety measure on Washington’s November ballot

Petition gatherers for I-1639 assemble in Occidental Park on Monday. From left, Gus Webster, Pavi Chance and at far right, Jordan Waits. Gus is from Seattle, Pavi is from Edmonds and Jordan is from Tacoma. (Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times)
Petition gatherers for I-1639 assemble in Occidental Park on Monday. From left, Gus Webster, Pavi Chance and at far right, Jordan Waits. Gus is from Seattle, Pavi is from Edmonds and Jordan is from Tacoma. (Greg Gilbert / Seattle Times)

OLYMPIA — The Alliance for Gun Responsibility plans to turn in about 360,000 signatures this week to get its proposed firearms-safety initiative on Washington’s November election ballot, a spokesman said Monday.

But gun-rights supporters have asked the Washington state Supreme Court to invalidate Initiative 1639 petitions, which they say were unlawfully formatted.

The clash is the latest — and maybe not the last — fight over what would be the most sweeping firearms initiative to go before Washington voters.

To qualify for the November election ballot, initiative groups must turn in the valid signatures of least 259,622 registered voters signatures by Friday. The Alliance has easily cleared that, according to Tallman Trask, communications manager for the group.

“We’re happy with where we landed on the numbers,” Trask said.

Among other things, I-1639 would raise the legal age to buy a semi-automatic weapon to 21 and require enhanced background checks as well as training and waiting periods to obtain those weapons.

The initiative would also require gun owners to secure any firearms kept in their homes. Gun owners could face misdemeanor or felony charges in certain circumstances if they allow someone prohibited from obtaining a weapon access to their firearm.

As with successful gun initiatives pushed by the Alliance in 2014 and 2016, this year’s effort has the backing of deep-pocketed Washington residents like Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.

Meanwhile, the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and other parties on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in. The groups claim that I-1639’s petitions do not show all the changes the initiative would make in Washington state’s gun laws.

By not showing such changes, petitions would be unlawful and should be thrown out, according to the foundation’s request for a court injunction.

“The microscopic maze of fine print used by the initiative sponsors disguised the actual language of the measure on the back of their petitions, which violates state law,” Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president and founder of the SAF, said in a news release.

In an email, Trask said the people signing petitions for the ballot measure know what it would do. He described the court challenge as an effort by gun-rights supporters to sink the initiative.

“The gun lobby knows how much support there is for measures to prevent gun violence in our state, and that they can’t win at the ballot,” Trask said. “They are desperately trying to prevent a vote on a popular measure.”

It remains to be seen what types of petitions the Alliance will submit to the Secretary of State’s Office, which is named in the foundation’s court filings.

The Alliance had been scheduled to turn in petitions Monday to the Secretary of State’s Office, but rescheduled that appointment to Thursday.

The Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing the foundation’s court filing, according to spokesman Derrick Nunnally.

The Supreme Court could accept the case, send it to a lower court or dismiss it, said Lorrie Thompson, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Both sides will have to make additional filings before that determination is made.


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