First batch of signatures for gun control initiative set to be submitted

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Advocates seeking to expand the use of background checks on gun sales in Washington state plan to submit their first batch of initiative petition signatures next week, the secretary of state's office said Friday.

David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman, said supporters of Initiative 594 have made an appointment to turn in their signatures at 9 a.m. Wednesday, nearly three months before the Jan. 3 deadline. They can continue to turn in signatures up until the deadline.

Christian Sinderman, a spokesman for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, said that while the group doesn't think it has enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot just yet, "we're excited about where we are."

"We want to assess where we are in terms of actual numbers and use this as an opportunity to demonstrate the incredible support for the measure and help us build momentum through the fall," he said.

I-594 would require background checks for online sales and private transactions, such as those that occur at gun shows. The checks would be conducted at federally licensed firearm dealers, where people already must undergo such scrutiny before purchasing a new weapon.

A counter campaign for a gun rights ballot measure is still collecting signatures, Ammons said in an email. Initiative 591 would prevent Washington state from adopting background check laws that are more restrictive than the federal standard. It would also prohibit any confiscation of firearms without due process.

A phone message left with Bellevue-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, the proponents of I-591, was not immediately returned.

An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state's office suggests at least 320,000 as a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures.

If there are enough valid signatures submitted by Jan. 3 for the ballot measures, the initiatives go to the Legislature, where lawmakers have three options: They could vote on the measures, and the measures would appear on the November ballot if they don't pass; they could take no action, meaning the initiatives would go straight to the ballot; or they could recommend an alternate measure to run alongside the initiatives on the ballot.

Washington state lawmakers had considered a measure similar to Initiative 594 earlier this year, but it didn't pass either the House or the Senate. I-594 does not include some of the exemptions that lawmakers had been considering. For example, law enforcement officers or people who have concealed pistol licenses still would have to go through background checks on private transactions under the initiative.