By: Joe Warta

Voters taking part in the Washington State midterm elections this November will decide on a ballot initiative that could bring about sweeping gun control.

Ballot initiatives are in themselves problematic and dangerous, as Brenden Boudreau explained in a Gunpowder Magazine article earlier this year:

Very little good ever comes from the ballot initiative process. It is a favorite tool the left uses to mobilize their base and chip away at our freedom, not only concerning firearms, but on a whole host of issues.

The reality is that this nation was founded upon republican principles in which citizens elect representatives to the various legislatures, who then go about making laws. Ballot initiatives, or direct democracy, undermine and circumvent the legislative process to the point that in some states, such as California, the state legislature hardly matters anymore.

The Washington State ballot initiative, I-1639, is 30 pages long. Here’s what you need to know about it:

Multiple Mandates
If enacted, I-1639 would:

Raise the legal age for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21.

Require gun purchasers to pass an enhanced background check and wait 10 days to take possession of their weapon.

Require that gun owners take a firearms training class.

Establish “secure gun storage requirements.”

Bloomberg Funding
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which the NRA calls “Michael Bloomberg’s front group,” led signature gathering to get I-1639 on the ballot and raised more than $4.3 million, largely from the Seattle elite. Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, has donated more than $1.2 million in support of it; Seattle venture capitalists Leslie and Nicholas Hanauer have donated $1.2 million as well. Steve and Connie Ballmer, also of Microsoft, have donated $1 million.

Law Enforcement Opposition
The Washington State Sheriffs Association (WSSA), Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS), and Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) have all come out against the initiative. republished a statement from the WSLEFIA:

“Initiative 1639 is being promoted as a public safety measure; those actually working in law enforcement know that IT WILL DO NOTHING TO STOP A SINGLE CRIME. This initiative has nothing to do with ‘assault weapons’ and is directed only at our good citizens who already pass multiple background checks before owning a firearm. I-1639 is an attack on civil rights and is an attempt to marginalize all firearm owners, including law enforcement officers. I-1639 will impair public safety, embolden criminals and impose burdensome restrictions on our most law-abiding citizens.”

Support Does Not Necessarily Mean Law
Pro-gun Washingtonians hoped for a victory in the courts, and temporarily got one, when a Washington court ruled the initiative could not appear on the ballot because it broke state law regarding signature-gathering practices for a ballot initiative.
Opponents argued it was not made clear what exactly people were signing the petition for, because the text of I-1639 was too small to read. The State Supreme Court, however, ruled the initiative had to appear on the ballot, because there is no state law allowing a court to review how signatures were gathered until after the measure passes.

Observers are predicting the measure will pass handily, but it is likely the law would then be brought before the court for review.

Either way, Second Amendment supporters in Washington State have a fight ahead of them this fall.

Joe Warta is a Regional Director with the National Association for Gun Rights writing from Colorado. Contact him at