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Plan Would Require Handgun Owners To Get Safety License

David Ammons Associated Press

Washington residents need a license to drive a car, so it makes sense to require people to get a state safety license to own and shoot a handgun, citizen sponsors of a new initiative said Monday.

Leaders of Washington Citizens for Handgun Safety, at the capital to address a statewide gathering of the League of Women Voters, said scores of children and teenagers die every year from handgun accidents. Owners need to be better trained and should keep the weapons secured, sponsors said.

Initiative 676 would require handgun owners to get a license after having successfully completed an eight-hour safety course covering the operation, handling and storage of handguns.

It also would require that trigger-locking devices cover all handguns sold or transferred in the state.

Backers have until July 3 to collect about 225,000 signatures in order to secure a place on the statewide November ballot. Co-chairman Tom Wales said organizers will use only volunteer signature gatherers.

The measure is backed by the league, Washington Ceasefire, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the state Nurses Association, church groups and some local PTA organizations. The other co-chairmen are former first lady Jean Gardner, a Democrat, and former Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard, a Republican.

Wales, a federal prosecutor, said sponsors are particularly concerned about the toll of guns on children.

“Every day in this country, we lose 15 kids to firearms violence, most of that from handguns,” Wales said in an interview. “It is the equivalent of three busloads of kids (dying) every week. If we had three busloads of kids driving off a cliff every week, it would be a national scandal.

“We think people don’t appreciate the magnitude of the problem.”

Alan Gottlieb, director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, called the initiative unworkable and unwise. He said voters are likely to reject it if it earns a place on the November ballot.

About two million Washington residents own guns and a licensing requirement would be impossible without creating a giant bureaucracy, he said in an interview.

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