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Dueling Initiatives in Washington State

We’ve got ourselves a really interesting pair of “Initiatives” on the ballot this year. Washington State, like California, has fairly gentle requirements for getting these kinds of things on ballots so it’s pretty routine for us to have one or more of them to vote on.

But this time, what’s on the ballot is really weird. The two are mutually contradictory. One, Initiative 591, would make it illegal to require a background check when a gun is bought or sold or traded — including at gun shows. The other, Initiative 594, would require a background check be carried out for any sale or transfer of a gun — including at gun shows.

And, because they are separate initiatives, both could pass or both could fail. You can see the mess it would create if both passed.

Being that this is Washington, where the west is urban, progressive and strongly Democratic and the eastern part is rural, conservative and tilts Republican we’ve got a neat kind of geopolitical battle going on. And when this kind of thing pops up money starts flowing.

The usual suspects are shoveling cash. Gates, Bloomberg, Ballmer backing 594 and the NRA and other pro-gun organizations supporting 591.

The usual verbal assaults are also being tossed around. Accusations of deliberate confusion abound with both sides claiming the other backed their initiative to confuse the voters who are, of course, confused. As the New York Times noted in a nice article covering this donnybrook, back in ‘95 there were two similarly conflicting initiatives on the ballot (they were on medical malpractice). The public rejected both, thereby saving the courts from a precedentless conundrum.

I’m backing Initiative 594. The choice seems pretty simple to me. One bill would increase the death rate, the other lower it. I’m for lowering it. Those backing 591 say that if my view prevails then our “gun rights” will be curtailed. This, of course, is hyperbolic nonsense. It wouldn’t take away the right to own a gun, sell it or loan it. It would merely mean that guns would be subject to the same kinds of guidelines as automobiles. I can live with that. Gun enthusiasts should be able to as well.


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