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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gun control initiative passes signature check, gets new legal challenge

The Legislative Building is shown at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

OLYMPIA – A ballot measure that would put new restrictions on the sale of semi-automatic rifles qualified for the November ballot Friday, but also faced a new court challenge.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified that supporters of Initiative 1639 gathered enough signatures to be on the general election ballot. The campaign turned in about 378,000 signatures, more than 100,000 above the minimum required.

The initiative raises the age for the purchase of a semi-automatic rifle to 21, requires a more extensive background check for handgun purchases and requires firearms owners to store weapons securely.

In announcing that the initiative had enough signatures, Wyman said there are “concerns” whether the petition sheets complied with legal requirements, but the initiative did not run afoul of any legal requirements that are under her authority.

Shortly before Wyman announced it had sufficient signatures, Alan Gottlieb, of the Second Amendment Foundation, filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court contending the way the initiative was printed on petitions did not follow rules for clearly describing what parts of state law would change. The lawsuit contends that because the petitions were improperly printed, none of the signatures is valid, Gottlieb said in a news release.

Earlier this month, a state Supreme Court commissioner rejected a request by the foundation and other gun rights groups to keep Wyman from accepting the signature sheets, also based on the theory that the petitions didn’t clearly tell signers what the initiative would do. The court didn’t have the authority to tell Wyman to reject the signatures, Commissioner Michael Johnston said.

Courts are usually reluctant to block an initiative that has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, preferring to wait to see if it passes.