Two lawsuits filed over I-1639 gun control initiative
It didn’t take long after Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified gun control Initiative 1639 that the lawsuits were filed.
“This challenge maintains that because the initiative petitions were incorrectly printed, there isn’t a single valid signature on them,” said Alan Gottleib with the Second Amendment Foundation. “It is essentially the same as signing a contract to buy a new Ford and they deliver a used Chevy. At the end of the day, it’s worthless paper. That’s not my fault, it’s the fault of the people behind I-1639 who apparently thought it didn’t matter to follow the letter of the law.”
While Gottlieb heads up the Second Amendment Foundation, his lawsuit was filed as a private citizen and Washington state voter. The lawsuit was filed in Thurston County. Gottlieb is not alone. The National Rifle Association filed a second lawsuit in Thurston County at the same time Friday.
“Secretary of State Wyman has a legal and constitutional duty to reject all I-1639 signatures obtained using fraudulent copies of this initiative,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA-ILA. “It’s telling that the gun control lobby and their billionaire backers will break the rules and resort to dirty tricks in order to get their latest gun control scheme on the ballot.”
“We call on the court to uphold state law and reject these fraudulent petitions,” he said.
I-1639 received more than the 260,000 signatures to be placed on the November ballot. The initiative aims to establish new firearm regulations in Washington state, including a safe storage rule similar to Seattle’s recently passed law. It also raises the age to purchase semi-automatic assault weapons to 21 (from the current age of 18). And it will create enhanced background checks for those weapons.
It’s not the first legal action that I-1639 has faced. Opponents have argued that the print on the initiative was far too small for signers to know what the issue is about. They also argue that the language of the initiative was improperly posted on the signature gathering forms.
“The petitions were not printed in accordance with state law because they did not have a full and correct version of the measure printed on the back,” Gottlieb said.
“How was anyone supposed to fully understand what they were signing,” he said. “Just because the wealthy elitists behind this poorly-prepared initiative spent a couple of million dollars in an attempt to get on the November ballot is no reason for the court to allow them to dance around state law.”
I-1639 was the first of three initiatives to be certified for the November ballot this year. Secretary of State Kim Wyman still notes, however, that “concerns remain about whether the format of the I-1639 petition signature sheets complies with constitutional and statutory requirements, and whether it sets precedent for future petitions,” according to her office. But the initiative complied with all legal requirements under her authority.
Wyman has previously said that she has never seen an initiative submitting in the format that I-1639 was. Her office went and looked at past initiatives and couldn’t find any others like it either.
“All the words are there, but it’s the way and the manner in which they presented them that is different … It’s the way they are presented that can be confusing to some,” she said in early July.
Wyman’s office has looked into her legal authority in such matters, and has found that she must accept the petition. She said the court needs to provide clarification as to whether or not her office can reject petitions if they do not strictly follow state rules.