Washington State gun rights advocates fighting to pass Initiative 591 issued an urgent appeal this morning to get their message out in 23 newspapers around the state, an effort that is being overwhelmed, they say, by billionaire-backed advertising that threatens to “crunch our gun rights.”
Outspent at least 7-to-1, the grassroots activists at Protect Our Gun Rights have known all along that they were up against a juggernaut. Now it is clear by reading messages on various Northwest firearms forums from people wondering where the campaign is to battle Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure supported by Seattle-area wealthy elites and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a leading spokesman for the POGR effort, notes in the e-mail appeal, “Our opponents are now unloading their millions of dollars to crunch our gun rights. In the past week they have increased their spending to a point that if not matched will have a devastating impact on the election results.”
This column has received private e-mails complaining that I-594 advertisements have been running twice an hour. Well, welcome to hardball politics. With a war chest in the seven-figure range, the Washington Alliance for Gun Safety has bags of loot to purchase loads of air time. They are pushing hard to pass their measure, which many believe is deliberately confusing so as to criminalize common, perfectly legal behavior, such as loaning firearms to friends or in-laws, for hunting, target shooting or any other legitimate purpose, without an expensive background check.
The campaign is drawing national attention, and the National Rifle Association has inserted “No on 594” bumper stickers, and fact sheets, in its monthly magazines to Washington State members. While anti-gunners will complain that the NRA is using its power to fight I-594, there hasn’t been a whimper about the $1 million from Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety lobbying group to the WAGR coffers.
NRA has tens of thousands of members in Washington. Many have been wondering when the organization will fully engage in this battle. Thousands of bumper stickers, yard signs and a trio of strategy sessions starting Saturday in Lakewood, with evening meetings also in Spokane Monday and in Ellensburg on Tuesday are part of the campaign, and an indication that NRA isn’t simply sitting this one out.
The NRA earlier had launched a national campaign targeting Bloomberg’s nationwide effort to dictate gun laws. The I-594 campaign may be one component of that.
Today, Gottlieb is enroute to the 29th annual Gun Rights Policy Conference in Chicago, from where this column will be reporting for the next few days. But a growing army of grassroots volunteers will be busy this weekend and for the next six weeks in an effort to pass I-591 and thwart the gun control lobby.
MEANWHILE, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting today that the New Jersey Attorney General may be exerting some common sense in the case of a Pennsylvania woman named Shaneen Allen. The single mom completed all of her requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit but landed in trouble on a traffic stop in New Jersey because she dutifully informed the cop that she had a legally-licensed handgun in her purse.
The case has drawn national attention and no small amount of anger from gun rights and other advocacy groups. Allen is reportedly being offered an option to enter a pretrial intervention program, rather than be convicted of a crime and sent to prison for five years under the Garden State’s draconian gun laws.
Allen’s attorney, gun law expert Evan Nappen, has filed a motion to have the charge dismissed. But a Superior Court judge denied the motion, and authorities in New Jersey apparently were prepared to make an example of Allen, 27.
Some would argue that this is the kind of harsh gun law enforcement that anti-gunners would like to see in the Pacific Northwest. That sort of thing begins with the passage of what the gun prohibition lobby has invariably insisted were “common sense gun reforms” and simply has amped up over the years when it was discovered that these laws did not curb crime or prevent violence. Rather than admit they were wrong, anti-gunners just passed more of the same kinds of laws.