Two incompatible gun ballot measures lead in Washington state

OLYMPIA, Washington Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:56pm EDT

A backdrop is pictured during a news conference held by groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A backdrop is pictured during a news conference held by groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Two incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday, but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.

The competing measures, both slated to be on the ballot in November in the Pacific Northwest state, are the only firearm background check initiatives up for a vote this year in the United States.

They are the latest touchstones in a longstanding fight over background checks on gun buyers. The debate hinges on whether their expansion constitutes a common-sense approach to keeping guns away from criminals and the mentally unstable or a first step in broader restrictions on gun ownership.

Initiative 594 would require all firearm sales, including those at gun shows and conducted online, to be predicated on a background check of the buyer. Initiative 591, however, would disallow background checks for gun purchases unless explicitly required by the federal government.

Federal law exempts some gun sales from background checks, allowing for what opponents have dubbed the gun-show loophole because some sales in that setting are exempted.

The results on the Washington state gun measures from the Elway Poll, which is independent of the two campaigns, shows Initiative 594 enjoying 72 percent support, while the other measure has 55 percent in favor. The poll's margin of error is 4.5 percentage points, and 504 registered voters participated.

When asked in a follow-up question whether background checks should be expanded or unchanged, 62 percent of respondents said they favored more restrictions.

Stuart Elway, whose firm conducted the poll, said gun-control advocates need to clarify the difference between the measures while their foes would benefit from muddied waters.

"The task for proponents of the status quo is to cultivate the confusion, hope that both measures pass, then get them both overturned in court after the election," Elway said in a statement.

The pro-background checks campaign has raised more than $1.6 million, including $50,000 from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, according to campaign finance filings. The anti-background check campaign has taken in just under half that amount.

Colorado, which passed universal background checks into law last year, and New York are among a handful of states with such requirements in place.

(This version of the April 15 story corrects the fifth paragraph to show that some, not all, sales at gun shows are not subject to background checks.)

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (5)
montemanm1 wrote:
“Federal law exempts some gun sales from background checks, allowing for what opponents have dubbed the gun-show loophole because sales in that setting are exempted.”

Wrong! This is the classic “gun show loophole” fallacy. Under federal law, only licensed gun dealers have access to the national system for gun sales background checks. The vast majority of people selling guns at gun shows are licensed dealers, and must therefore conduct the requisite background checks before they can sell a gun to somebody. People who are not licensed dealers can sell guns to each other but only in face-to-face transactions, and only if both parties are residents of the same state in which the sale takes place, regardless of if this is at a gun show or someone’s home. Not only are people not required to do background checks, they are not allowed access to the system.

Apr 17, 2014 8:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
SunnyDaySam wrote:
montemanm1 wrote: ‘People who are not licensed dealers can sell guns to each other..’ ‘Not only are people not required to do background checks, they are not allowed access to the system.’

This IS the Gun Show Loophole. Please explain why you think it’s a ‘fallacy’? – looks like a fact to me.

Apr 17, 2014 9:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Kratos1256 wrote:
Universal background checks sounds like a very common sense measure, the problem is that the only known way to enforce them is via the creation of a gun registry, and gun registries almost always lead to gun confiscation. Most of the people polled on this probably are unaware of all of this however; it would be interesting to see the polls if people were educated regarding the issue of background checks.

I do not buy that gun rights proponents would intend to get universal background checks overturned in the courts if they pass; that one might be a hard sell to a judge, though it would depend. Unless the judge is solidly pro-2nd Amendment, usually they find ways to uphold such laws.

Apr 17, 2014 4:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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