A state gun-regulations ballot measure seeking to make Washington’s firearms laws among the strictest in the country passed Tuesday with 60 percent of the vote in election-night returns.
The measure led in large western counties and trailed in most eastern counties. Votes will continue be counted in the coming days.
“My generation has been defined by gun violence. We have been defined by continued and repeated inaction by our elected officials,” Stephen Paolini, 22-year-old campaign manager for Initiative 1639, said at a gathering at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel where Tuesday’s results drew cheers. “I hope tonight this victory is a message to our elected officials: Enough is enough.”
The sweeping 30-page measure will raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21. To obtain such weapons, people will need to pass an enhanced background check, take a training course and wait 10 business days after a purchase.
I-1639 also will enact a storage law. Gun owners who don’t secure their firearms with devices such as a trigger lock or safe could be charged with gross misdemeanor or felony “community endangerment” crimes for allowing prohibited people (such as children) to access and display or use the weapons.
Proponents of the measure said I-1639 would address the root causes of many mass shootings and generally help to reduce gun violence.
I-1639 was the only state gun-regulations measure on the Nov. 6 ballot anywhere in the country.
The campaign supporting the measure raised more than $5.5 million, with much of that money coming from a handful of wealthy donors, such as venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died last month.
I-1639’s opponents said the measure would violate their Second Amendment rights and make it nearly impossible for adults under 21 to defend themselves with firearms while doing little to reduce crime.
An opposition campaign mostly bankrolled by the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms raised about $622,000.
Alan Gottlieb of the Citizens Committee said I-1639 opponents plan to sue in an attempt to block the measure.
“A handful of billionaires put in millions of dollars to buy votes and we were outspent,” Gottlieb said. “But while they were able to buy votes, our hope is they won’t be able to buy judges.”
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, an I-1639 supporter, said he would defend the measure in court if need be.
“We’ll have a job to do and we’ll do it,” Ferguson said.
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