Gun prohibitionists in Washington State think that perhaps they will have more success with a gun control ballot initiative than they have had with the legislature. Their rationale is that the big evil NRA intimidates legislators and "the people" won't be similarly swayed.
Washington Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who had sponsored unsuccessful legislation on background checks at the state level, said a winning ballot initiative would make a statement with broad implications.I don't doubt that they could have a multi-million dollar budget if Mayor Bloomberg and/or Bill Gates opens their wallets. If I remember correctly, Gates was a big supporter of a 1997 Washington State initiative that went down to screaming defeat.
"It's more powerful if the voters do it - as opposed to our doing it," Pedersen said. "And it would make it easier for the Legislature to do even more."
On Monday, proponents of universal background checks in Washington will announce their plan to launch a statewide initiative campaign that would require the collection of some 300,000 signatures, according to a person involved in the initiative planning who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has scheduled a fundraiser in Seattle at the end of next month and hopes to have a campaign budget in the millions of dollars.
This all presupposes that the gun prohibtionists have a large grassroots backing and that they can mobilize them. You know, like the NRA and other gun rights organizations.
The Brady Campaign's "director of mobilization" seems a little leery of the effort.
Brian Malte, director of mobilization at the national nonprofit lobbying group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said passage through Congress is the ideal in order to have a national solution and so that states with strong gun laws aren't undermined by nearby states with weaker standards. He noted that initiative campaigns are costly endeavors that can drain important, limited resources.I'm guessing the right time is right after a highly publicized mass shooting and when they think they have achieved a critical mass of low information voters.
Still, Malte said, the ballot measures are an option to consider.
"At some point, certainly decisions need to be made about what the right time is to say we take it to the people," Malte said.
Still Rep. Pedersen seems quite sure of himself.
Pedersen said he was working with the initiative organizers on language for the proposal, and he said the Legislature would first have another chance to adopt the measure early next year. If it fails among lawmakers again, the proposal would then automatically go to the ballot, where Pedersen said he welcomed a campaign competing against groups like the NRA.I don't doubt that the Yale-educated Pedersen is a smart guy. I just wonder how he in touch he is with the average Washington State voter outside of King County.
"I'm not afraid of it at all," Pedersen said. "The public is really with us. It's the right policy. I think it can be useful for further progress."