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Pro vs con: Both sides fighting over I-1639 gun control initiative

The Washington State Supreme Court overturned a Thurston County judge's ruling that gun control measure I-1639 was ineligible for the November ballot. (MyNorthwest)

The state Supreme Court settled the issue on whether I-1639 — a sweeping gun control initiative — would be allowed on the November ballot.

Local gun rights advocates and the NRA sued to stop the initiative, arguing that the signature petition did not include a full, true and readable copy of the initiative as required by state law. A lower court agreed with that argument and blocked I-1639 from the ballot. But the state Supreme Court unanimously overturned that on Friday.

Come November, you’ll have the chance to decide whether to pass the package of gun control laws included in the 30-page initiative.

RELATED: What is in I-1639?

Stephen Paolini is the campaign manager for Yes on I-1639 and says it’s a comprehensive package.

“It also includes a lot of stuff that folks are really obviously for,” Paolini said. “The real main thrust of this initiative is making sure that it’s at least as hard to purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle as it is a handgun. That is not a difficult-to-understand concept for most voters. Most people are already just surprised that that’s not already the case.”

He believes the hundreds of thousands of people who signed this petition knew what they were signing.

But Phil Watson with the No on I-1639 disagrees, so he’ll be focusing on getting the word out to voters over the next couple of months.

“The problems with this initiative — there are quite a few of them, so I think people need to know,” Watson said. “They need to read the entire initiative which is going to be in the voters pamphlet as well. Those are our main goals — just to raise money and get the word out.”

Among the issues Watson has with the initiative — a safe storage component that goes even farther than what was passed in Seattle. It allows for criminal charges rather than just a fine if your gun ends up in the wrong hands.

“Not just for an incident, but just for somebody having stole your gun and even if your house is safe, locked and secure,” Watson said. “By the way, it’s extremely hard to prove that your gun either was or was not locked up. I mean, a lot of these locks are very easy to just snip off. Sometimes these thieves just steal the safe and just run away with it. This law, in my opinion, it’s unenforceable if the prosecutor is honest.”

But Paolini with the Yes on 1639 campaign says there version of the safe storage requirement is the strongest so far, and necessary.

“I think if you talk to folks in law enforcement community, especially in the prosecutors community, they need this kind of liability to really enforce and to keep their communities safe,” Paolini said. “I think this is exactly the kind of law that’s most likely to keep our communities safe.”

The main components of the the initiative raise the age to buy a semiautomatic refile to 21. It also requires the same background checks as handguns. Gun rights advocates argue such background checks amount to a 10 day waiting period. It also requires people buying semiautomatic weapons to go through a firearms training course. New documents would be required for the sale of semiautomatic weapons; they would be kept with the department of licensing. Gun rights advocates argue this is a registry.

Another aspect of this initiative requires the Department of Licensing to set up a system within a year that allows for annual re-checks of people buying semiautomatic rifles to ensure they are still legally allowed to have the weapons they bought every year.

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