Mosman posted this in the Free Fire Zone™, but it deserves a post here as well. The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility is trying to get enough signatures to put a ballot initiative up for a vote that would enact “universal background checks” for all gun transfers in the state of Washington. The full text is here. Short version: it sucks . . .

The language classifies any changing of hands of a firearm as a transfer, regardless of whether money is involved. So, like with Chuck Schumer’s bill, if I hand my buddy a gun to try out on his ranch we are now both criminals.

There are exceptions to the rule, which include the usual “we support the second amendment” clauses to protect hunters when they lend a rifle to their minor children for hunting purposes, and exempt transfers within families.

It also includes some clumsy language that seems to want to exempt people from needing to do a background check to hand someone a gun if it will “prevent imminent death or great bodily harm,” but one of the requirements on that is that the recipient isn’t prohibited from owning a gun. Yeah, not going to stop in the middle of a firefight to hand my buddy a Form 4473 before lending them a rifle to fight back.

It also exempts temporary transfers at established shooting ranges, but says nothing about private property. So, like I said, a day at the ranch can quickly turn into a felonious afternoon.

This bill is a carbon copy of the one that failed in the U.S. Senate not too long ago, but tailored for Washington State’s specific statutes. And just like the proposed legislation in Washington, it does more to create ways for law abiding citizens to unknowingly become felons than to stop any potential mass murderers or criminals.

57 Responses to Text of Washington Background Check Ballot Initiative

  1. Sounds like if my buddy and I are at the hunting cabin and I go into town for supplies leaving him alone with my rifle, oh Jesus, he forgot to take his rifle out of the trunk. OMG, OMG

  2. Washingtonians, read closely. Loaning your firearm to non-immediate family or friends constitutes a felony

    In Definitions
    (25) Transfer means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.

    Then the gotcha in “NEW SECTION. Sec. 3.”
    (1) All firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington, shall be subject to background checks unless specifically exempted by state or federal law. The background check requirement applies to all sales or transfers including, but not limited to, sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.

    • So when you go to your LGS or the gun show, you can look but not touch, at least not without a background check. Umm hmm. Sensible.

  3. While this bill does suck, at least it provides the illusion of propriety as it is a ballot initiative and will need to be put to the vote, instead of unilaterally being implemented by state “representatives”.

    This still needs to be put down, but I like it better than having the ruling class decide what is right for me.

    • It’s really no better to have one’s Constitutional rights stripped away by a majority vote than by the legislature. In some sense, it’s even worse.

      • Definitely worse, it mean our own people are too short sighted to realize they’re signing away their God given rights.

      • Agreed. Tyranny by majority is not better than tyranny by the elite. At the end of the day “shall not be infringed”, means what it says.

    • Sorry, but having the village idiots decide what is right for you is no better than the ruling class making that decision. Make no mistake about it, that is exactly what “The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility” is hoping for. If uninformed voters get this travesty passed into law, then the WAGR (and other anti-2A groups) can legitimately claim that it is the will of the people.

      That’s even more dangerous to our freedoms than legislators who could face recalls or failed re-election bids.

    • Actually, Alan Gottlieb warned about the possibility of such referenda in about a dozen States because the federal background check bill was killed. So, I wouldn’t be in a rush to blame him for this. Sometimes, one finds oneself between a rock and a hard place, and that’s all there is to it.

    • SAF helped get a different ‘universal background check’ bill voted down just a couple months ago.

      I simply don’t understand this stuff. A similar enough bill already lost in WA recently. They’re just going to try over and over and over again and expect a different result?

      • …oh boy. Didn’t realize this is intended to be a ballot initiative voted upon by citizens, rather than a bill going to the legislators. This DOES worry me. Low information voters will read the title and say “okay” and vote yes. Why wouldn’t you want background checks? Why would anyone oppose it? I can see it passing even among people who would vote against it after having a discussion about it. They just won’t realize. On its face, it will sound good. Sh*t. Definitely worried.

      • This may be the same thing, but it’s being tried in a very different way this time.

        Even if this initiative gets defeated, that won’t be the end of it; you can get the same obsessive nutjobs putting up different versions of the same stupid initiative year after year after year, even though they get voted down by 60%+ every time.

        A bright side…sometimes…is that once it passes, it’s in the legislature’s territory. Initiatives can be changed after they’re implemented or, if they’re sufficiently stupid, even repealed later by the legislature. Or by the people via another initiative. Both have happened.

  4. This will be a good test — the first completely democratic attempt at gun control in the recent post-Newtown wave. If a majority of people really do want this kind of law, we’ll know. If not, we’ll know that, too…and so will our politicians.

    The most dangerous thing about it is the number of knee-jerk anti-gun voters in the highly populated west side that will reflexively go for it. On the whole, though, despite a big progressive influence in the Puget Sound, Washington is a pro-gun, pro-freedom, live-and-let-live kind of state. The vote to legalize marijuana was part of a general attitude that doesn’t want politicians and bureaucrats micromanaging everyone’s freedom, no matter what political cause it’s for.

    There’s going to be a lot of national money pouring in on the wrong side of this. Washingtonians need to make sure that we get the truth out there, one on one, to all the people we know. Billionaire provocateurs and their super PACs can spend all they want, but in the end, it’s going to be us and our neighbors that decide this thing.

    • It’s called low-information voters, and I predict that this turd will pass with at least 60% of voters checking the “Yes” box. Unless the NRA, the SAF, and other like-minded organization spend a lot of time sending out flyers and making television ads with the exact message that Dr. Sheets suggests above:

      “Washingtonians, read closely. Loaning your firearm to non-immediate family or friends constitutes a felony

      In Definitions
      (25) Transfer means the intended delivery of a firearm to another person without consideration of payment or promise of payment including, but not limited to, gifts and loans.

      Then the gotcha in “NEW SECTION. Sec. 3.”
      (1) All firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington, shall be subject to background checks unless specifically exempted by state or federal law. The background check requirement applies to all sales or transfers including, but not limited to, sales and transfers through a licensed dealer, at gun shows, online, and between unlicensed persons.”

      then this junk of a law is sure to pass. The ads should concentrate on that very small point, and hammer it home again and again. Washingtonians, the proposed law will make a felon out of you if you loan your firearm to a friend.

      • I agree completely. This is the only section of the ballot initiative that has to be driven home to everyone. That alone should be enough to defeat it.

        Don’t waste time on arguments against — it will simply confuse people.

        And consider an analogy that will be easy for people to internalize. Mention that part of the ballot initiative that sucks and then ask people something along the lines of, “What if loaning a car or cell phone to a friend without a background check was a felony? Everyone agrees that such a law would be ridiculous. And so it is ridiculous that a person who loans his firearm to a friend has committed a felony.”

      • I’d be interested to see what will be “specifically exempted by state or federal law.” It may be that a simple day of target shooting or bequeathing the family’s .22 rifle to your kid doesn’t fit the felony criteria.

        On the other hand, it sure does look like if I wanted to give my sweet Marlin 30-30 to my brother or my best friend as a gift, I’d become a felon if I didn’t ask the state for permission first — even though they both have previously passed federal NICS checks in Utah and I passed the same check years ago when I bought the gun. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

        I do fear that this initiative might pass, if only because decades of indoctrination have convinced people that guns are somehow inherently different from any other type of property. Any objection they might have to gov’t interference in their personal affairs just disappears because it’s a gun.

        “But guns are different.” How? “They kill people.” Lots of things can kill people; do you ask the gov’t for permission to own any of them? “No, but guns are different.” How are they so different? Knives are very effective at killing people, too, if somebody wants to use one that way. “They’re just different. Because semiautomatic and stuff.” Sigh.

  5. As said in the first TTAG piece on this issue: The initiative needs to die convincingly, not only for the sake of Washington, but to keep them from trying this all over the country. Hmm, what about a ballot initiative to uphold the second ammendment? Get a bit more proactive.

  6. yup. a ballot initiative is fine. if the people of the fine state of Washington want to screw themselves, I’m perfectly OK with that.

    • 4 points:

      1) Screw you.

      2) It’s not going to pass.

      3) An exception to #2 would be if low-information voters stuck their nose in this business, which generally doesn’t happen with gun politics in WA.

      4) Seriously, screw you.

      • Well said. I wish we could deport a bunch of the Californians that have moved here to get out of it, then try to recreate it here

  7. Thank god we don’t put stuff on the ballot here in Illinois, every city, county and state employee would be driving a BWM and every Union member would have a mansion by now.

    • I believe you do, actually, it’s just more limited than in other states that allow citizen initiated ballot initiatives. Based on my reading of the rule something like this, or a more restrictive firearms related initiative could absolutely pass.

  8. This is the most dangerous initiative for gun control we’ve seen, and if it passes you can expect carbon copies of this bill (or even tougher ones) in every other state that doesn’t already tightly regulate private sales. You can also expect scary sounding terms to start popping up in voter initiatives in at least 23 other states as well.

    Mark my words, if all this thing needs to pass is 50.1%, it most certainly will. Even in relatively pro-gun states “universal background checks” will sound perfectly reasonable to most voters. The effort to fight this once it makes the ballot increases exponentially.

    Some of us are going to shrug off the 87-93% number; some of us will shrug off any Northern state’s passage of gun laws, and some of us will simply assume that the passage of new gun laws will simply lead to a more concerted effort on our end to strike them down. Don’t be one of those people. We need to do everything in our power to destroy this before it makes it to a vote, and make it look like it never had a chance. I guarantee that if this genie gets out of the bottle it’s going to be the worst loss we’ve suffered since 1968.

    • Agree. Ballot initiatives that appeal to the uninformed masses are going to be way harder to defeat. We can’t just call our senators and complain. Voters don’t fear they won’t get reelected next year.

      As a Washingtonian, I’m worried about this one…

      • Yes, this thing makes my blood run cold, because there are nearly enough voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties to pass it, and it’ll sound just fine to a whole lot of them. The NRA and other gun rights organizations should be organizing now, but there’s a deafening silence and that’s really not good in the face of all the money that’s going to be on the other side, both from in and out of state.

    • I fear you might have a point. Oh man, I feel a barrage of Bloomberg/Soros funded TV adds headed for WA State. NRA, do you hear me?

  9. This is another test case. If it passes, they will try it in every single state where the rules allow it.

  10. My dad listens to the things I say about “gun control,” and he generally agrees with me – my dad is not a fan of democrats or their policies, despite his history as a self-professed hippie in the 60s & 70s. My dad has always been a big hunter, but was just never into military-style firearms and never understood why I was – though he enjoys taking a few shots from an AK when we go to the range.

    This is the straw that will break the camel’s back for guys like my dad. My dad and his buddies/brothers constantly swap rifles between each other every hunting season. My dad and I frequently borrow eachother’s rifles and pistols. My dad borrowed my SKS when they had a “pitbull problem” with a neighbor down the street.

    You cannot come and tell blue-collar, average sportsman that they suddenly cannot treat their firearms like property that they and their families own. Some of these guys may not get why we are upset about assault weapons bans, magazine capacity bans, etc. but they sure as hell will understand a law that dictates what they can and cannot do with property that they consider to be theirs, to be handed down and passed between trusted family and friends as seen fit.

    Above all else, WA has a lot of democratic gun owners. Their heads may be in the wrong place, but they will likely not support this bill. I strongly believe that this bill, if it makes it to the voter ballot as an initiative in 2014, will fail miserably. At that point, I wonder who the gun-banners will have to blame when their bill is shot down by a majority voters in the initiative process – which is the closest thing this state has to a direct-democratic vote.

    • The problem is that’s not what they are telling folks. They don’t say that they are trying to make law-abiding citizen who loan each other firearms felons. No, they come out and say things like “don’t you agree that we should try to prevent criminal from accessing guns by passing universal background check laws?” and then they use it as a Trojan horse. It’s the same reason that they decry the fact the gun laws at the Federal level were killed by the gun lobby, instead of saying that law-abiding folks killed a badly written bill that could have spelled trouble for the 2nd amendment.

      Regardless of the lip service they give us, these folks are only interested in incremental disarmament. If all they wanted was UBCs, they could have gotten such a law passed with absolutely NO problems after Newtown. Instead, they used the occasion to try to pass their wishlist of horribly convoluted laws full of landmines. We’re on to them, but I seriously doubt the general public is. Those are the folks who will determine if this measure passes. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

  11. All I can say is that, even in MD, we didn’t bother with universal background checks.

  12. They need to make a commercial to air on local WA TV. Have multiple scenes with a guy at a gun store asking to see a gun. Then taking the gun and sirens going off with the police arriving to put him in handcuffs. Then another scene of two friends out on the farm and one says here, try out my gun. Then the sirens turn on again and the police come and arrest them. Silly, but for low information voters it might show them how stupid the law is. Just a thought…

  13. Wait a minute… from the text of the initiative:

    “All firearm sales or transfers, in whole or part in this state
    including without limitation a sale or transfer where either the
    purchaser or seller or transferee or transferor is in Washington,
    shall be subject to background checks…”

    Does this mean that if I drive 20 minutes in order to cross the border into Idaho, and the other guy (whether he’s buying from me or selling to me) does as well, then we can complete the sale or transfer? Obviously private sales are ONLY legal between two residents of the same state, but I can’t say I’ve heard anything in any law that they have to be in their state during the sale. Couldn’t two WA residents be in Idaho for the day and do a sale? AND get around this initiative because of what is said in the quote above???? Seems awkward.

  14. Being the worrying type, I have been asking myself since back when Toomey-Manchin was voted down whether its failure was a good thing. One of the main reasons for the doubts was the possibility of such ballot initiatives, as emphasized by Alan Gottlieb in a radio interview around that time. I’ve posted the link before, but here it is again for anyone interested – http://www.thegunmag.com/armed-america-radio-inter-view-with-alan-gottlieb-audio/

    It’s been a while, but I recall that he estimates the number of States where such initiatives might realistically be filed and how much money it would take to fight all of them. The numbers were sobering. I would also add on my own account that the final version of Toomey-Manchin wouldn’t be as insane as the proposed WA State ballot initiative.

    And yet, it’s also impossible to say that one should have definitely supported Toomey-Manchin into passing. Who knows what other stuff Bloomberg and company would have been after by now, with the background checks “out of the way”. So, in the end, history will just have to run its course. A lot will also depend on the 2014 elections, not just the ballot initiatives. Of course, Toomey-Manchin might still possibly get revisited and passed by the US Senate, which would further scramble the playing field.

  15. Well if this does pass, it still may not last long. Washington state’s constitution contains the right to bear arms. For a liberal state (because of Seattle and king county) we have a pretty good supreme court. It would not surprise me to see the state court strike this down.

    • Break out the tar and feathers?
      😉
      Seriously, the only thing I can think of is to counter individual signature gatherers in a peaceful, non-violent fashion.

  16. Ballot initiatives have done a wonderful job of contributing to California’s financial woes for years and years, or so I’ve been told. This is definitely a worrying precedent.

  17. According to their own site:
    “This is an initiative to the legislature. We must gather over 325,000 signatures by January 4, 2014. If successful, the legislature has to consider the initiative. If they pass it, it becomes law. If they punt, it goes to the people in November of 2014.”
    So, first they have to get 325,000 unique, verified signatures from WA registered voters in six months. That’s 5% of the population, and half of the population probably isn’t even registered to vote. That will be pretty tough. *If* it goes to the legislature, they will reject it (again), and it will go to the voters…in an off cycle election year. The anti-gunners will probably have lost their steam by then, and as they’ve shown in their turn out to rallies, they don’t have that much steam to begin with. We should be able to outnumber them at the polls.

    I think this might be why the Founders despised democracy so much and created a republic.

    Would it be illegal for us to volunteer to collect signatures for them, and then toss out the signatures? 😉

    • It’ll be a cinch for them to get those signatures. Obama beat Romney by almost 400,000 votes in King County alone. They’ll probably get double what they need so they can easily survive challenges. There’s pretty much no chance this fails to go to the ballot. This is the main event for gun rights in Washington. There’s big money from inside the state and there will be big money from outside the state supporting this.

      • Yeah, tough situation all around if one is a gun owner in Washington. Or Maryland. Or New York. Or just pick any blue state, u get the idea.

        • The thing is Washington is actually a great place for guns, and has been for a long time. So if this goes through, it’s going to be a big win for the forces of darkness.

      • A lot of Dems in Washington don’t actually care about gun control and are pretty chill about that stuff. I wouldn’t be too quick to give up hope.

        That being said this is alarming.

  18. we need to try to do this same thing with the signatures, but for getting the mag capacity in Colorado changed.

  19. Watch who funds this initiative. It will be some of Microsoft`s people putting up the bucks. You have a uphill battle stopping this because of the idiots who live in King County and Seattle.

  20. Just like the Schumer version, the exceptions are largely worthless and designed to make gun owners into felons.

    “(ii) if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located;

    I assume that Washington is much like Oregon, and most target shooting is done on public lands, outside of any “established shooting range.” Making it impossible to enjoy a day of shooting with friends and family without becoming felons for committing unlawful transfers.

    “(v) while hunting if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is transferred possesses the firearm and the person to whom the firearm is transferred has completed all training and holds all licenses or permits required for such hunting, ….”

    This too has instant felon written all over it, and makes it unlawful to borrow a gun for hunting in the fashion most people would envision being ok. You can’t hunt in your house, cabin, or camp sight, obviously you also can’t hunt in your vehicle, or on the highway driving to the hunting location. Making the so called exception impossible to utilize.

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