By Jeff Knox
September 4, 2014
There is a major battle under way in Washington State that has serious implications for the rest of the country. The battle is between two competing ballot initiatives; one, I-591, to limit background checks in the state to federal standards, and the other, I-594, to require all firearm transfer in the state – with a few narrow exceptions – to go through a federally licensed firearm dealer for a NICS check.
The I-594 campaign has raised over $7 million so far, most of it from a few extremely wealthy individuals, including Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and information mogul turned New York City Mayor turned anti-gun extremist, Mike Bloomberg. The grass roots effort in support of I-591, on the other hand, has raised just over $1 million, most of that from small, individual contributions.
Seven million dollars will buy a lot of advertising, but will the billionaires’ bucks – and general ignorance about the seemingly commonsense issue of background checks – be enough to overpower the states 1.5 million gun owners? Polling has shown support for both initiatives, but the intense advertising campaigns and get-out-the-vote efforts could swing the numbers in either direction.
Proponents of I-591 argue that Washington should not institute gun laws that are stricter or more complicated than federal law. They point out that crime guns are rarely acquired by prohibited persons through private, otherwise legal sales, and that I-594 imposes an unnecessary burden and expense on gun owners. They also point to discomfort with the idea of government being involved in every legal firearm transaction and the potential for the process to be turned into a registration scheme.
Proponents of I-594 argue that if Congress won’t take action on “universal background checks,” then it’s up to the states to make changes. Pointing to a couple of high-profile examples of prohibited people buying guns through private sales, and invoking atrocities like the Batman movie massacre, the attack on the Gabby Giffords rally, and the horror of Sandy Hook (none of which involved private firearm transactions) as reasons to “do something” to keep guns out of “the wrong hands.” As is almost always the case with gun control proposals, the I-594 people do not offer any real evidence that there is a specific problem that needs to be solved, or that their proposal will actually solve – or even favorably affect – any problem. Instead they present sad and scary anecdotes to excite people’s emotions and then offer their proposal as a “step in the right direction.”
The heavy funding of I-594 by elitist billionaires, all of whom employ private armed security to protect themselves and their families, could prove to be a double-edged sword. Voters might take exception to these elites flaunting their wealth in an effort to restrict the rights of regular citizens. The I-591 effort is playing that angle heavily and trying to educate people about the realities of private sales and the distortions being presented by the I-594 side. The fact is I-594 will not prevent evil or insane people from acquiring guns or other weapons if they want them, while it will add as much as 25% to the cost of buying a gun, not to mention the added time and inconvenience. And it will only impact law-abiding people wishing to buy and sell personal property that happens to be specifically protected under the Bill of Rights. It is a step in a direction away from liberty and toward overreaching government control.
Using the anti-rights advocates’ own claims that between 80% and 90% of all firearm sales are to people who already own guns, that would mean only 10% to 20% of gun buyers don’t already own guns, and the hundreds of millions of dollars currently being spent on background checks are being wasted at a rate of 80% to 90% right off the top. Of the 10% to 20% they say don’t already own guns, only a very small fraction might be prohibited persons, so the gun control extremists are advocating adding expense and scrutiny to thousands more firearms transfers in Washington every year on the slight chance that a few very dense criminals might be too stupid to simply avoid the scrutiny by convincing a buddy or girlfriend to make the purchase for them – something that is already illegal, but still relatively common, and virtually impossible to prevent.
Will the commitment and effort of a million and a half gun owners in Washington win out over the money of a handful of billionaire hoplophobes? (ANSWER: they did not) The only accurate measure of that question will come in the polling booths on November 4, but one thing is certain; the billionaires’ money will win out over apathy and inaction every time. Lovers of liberty in Washington (and now the entire country) must get involved, and they can use all the help and encouragement the rest of us can give them.