One day after state lawmakers adjourned without passing a bill requiring background checks on gun sales, a coalition of religious leaders, gun violence victims, and gun control advocates announced a statewide initiative.
“We intend to bring this to the legislators at the start of the 2014 legislative session and if they do not pass it, we will put an initiative on our state’s 2014 fall ballot and let the people decide,” declared Fr. Michael Ryan of Seattle’s St. James Cathedral.
A gun control initiative failed in Washington in 1997, but backers insist a lot has changed since then.
“This initiative will be one topic, which is the topic of universal background checks, which is at this point, given the national conversation, very well understood and extraordinarily popular,” said Zach Silk with the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “We intend to run a strong and winning campaign,” he told a news conference Monday. “We expect to go toe-to-toe with the gun lobby.”
Rabbi Daniel Weiner lamented what he called the indiscriminate distribution of guns.
“Our violence-prone society has turned weapons into idols and the appropriate religious response is sustained moral outrage.”
Supporters of the initiative think the political climate is right to pass a law requiring universal background checks for gun sales.
“The mass shootings at Aurora, Colo. and Tucson, Ariz., at Virginia Tech, at Sandy Hook, they may grab the headlines, but there’s an inevitably slower trickle, like a running stream of blood, of death from gun violence in our nation,” said Rev. Steven Faber, with the Washington Christian Leaders Coalition.
The National Rifle Association lobbied against gun background check legislation in Olympia this session and Brian Judy, with the NRA, told reporters the gun rights group would likely oppose the initiative, too.
“If it’s anything like the legislation, then we will oppose it,” Judy said.
If supporters get enough signatures, representing about 250,000 registered voters, the initiative would first go to the Legislature early next year and then to the 2014 fall ballot if lawmakers fail to adopt it.