Today’s Seattle Times carries a fairly detailed, cover-lots-of-bases story about Initiative 591 that asserts in the headline that an advertisement for the measure “misrepresents law enforcement.”
The Seattle Times recommended a “No” vote on I-591 back on July 5, while endorsing rival Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure. Today’s story on the I-591 campaign claim that I-591 is supported by law enforcement in the form of two major organizations, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) and Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) is dubbed “half true” by the newspaper’s “Truth Needle.”
A considerable number of Times readers seem to suggest this story just might meet the definition of a political tactic long known as an “October Surprise.” According to a definition at Wikipedia, “In American political jargon, an October surprise is a news event deliberately created to influence the outcome of an election…the term ‘October surprise’ has been used preemptively during campaign season by partisans of one side to discredit late-campaign news by the other side.” This is the last day of October.
The election is five days away, and ballots are already being filled out and mailed. However, some observers have suggested there will be a late dump of mail-in ballots over the weekend, and especially on Monday and even Tuesday.
UPDATE (10:20 a.m. PDT): The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is the firearms industry umbrella group, issued the following advisory this morning:
“On Nov. 4, Washington gun-owners and sportsmen will have a very easy decision to make when it comes to protecting your rights. Washington State is the site of a key political fight between anti-gun billionaires who are trying to buy an election and pro-gun advocates. It is vital for everyone to have their voices heard in Washington state by voting NO for Initiative 594 and YES for Initiative 591.
“In the past, NSSF conducted an online survey of federal-licensed firearms retailers and it revealed that those who would be on the front line of implementing what is touted as “universal background checks” have serious concerns both about whether such proposals would work as well as the potential negative effects on their businesses. Asked whether they supported or opposed “universal background checks,” 85.7 percent of the responding firearms retailers said that they opposed them. To the question of whether they believed that such legislation would prevent criminals from obtaining firearms, a nearly unanimous 95.7 percent said no.
“Initiative 594 would add “universal background” checks to state law and create a duplicative requirement on all firearms sales and transfers. Initiative 591 would do exactly the opposite as I-594. It would prohibit background checks “unless a national standard is required.”
“Anti-gun groups with their billions of dollars want to force their ideas on all Washington gun-owners and force them to register their firearms.
“Remember to Vote NO in Initiative 594 and YES for Initiative 591.”
Let’s talk about half truths. In its editorial, a segment of which also appears in a currently-running blog regarding the newspaper’s endorsements, the Times states, “I-594 provides a practical expansion of background checks on all gun sales — clarity and consistency to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. I-594 is no protective panacea against the kinds of public assaults Seattle has suffered in recent years. But it is a step forward.”
The Times editorial board knows, as should its news staff covering this issue, that I-594 is about more than gun sales. As has been repeatedly reported by this column, I-594 deals with transfers of firearms, including loans and gifts. It would also greatly expand the existing state pistol registry, a fact often danced around by I-594 proponents who claim with Pollyanna sincerity that it does not “create” a gun registry. They’re right, it doesn’t. The pistol registry is already in existence.
In a flyer that arrived in mailboxes yesterday, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility claims that I-594 has “no mandatory waiting periods.” Yet on Page 10 of the measure, when it talks about transfer of firearms to purchasers, this is what the measure says:
“Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, a licensed dealer may not deliver any firearm to a purchaser or transferee until the earlier of:
“(1) The results of all required background checks are known and the purchaser or transferee is not prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal or state law; or
“(2) Ten business days have elapsed from the date the licensed dealer requested the background check. However, for sales and transfers of pistols if the purchaser or transferee does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or state identification card or has not been a resident of the state for the previous consecutive ninety days, then the time period in this subsection shall be extended from ten business days to sixty days.”
Whatever else it happens to be, Section (2) is a mandatory waiting period. It doubles the current five-business-day waiting period on handgun purchases by people who do not possess a concealed pistol license. Where is the Times’ Truth Needle on that one?
The flyer also quotes statistics on the number of people that have been prevented from buying firearms at retail since 1998, setting the number at 40,976, including 24,028 sales to felons and 6,277 sales to domestic abusers. The source of this information is identified in small type at the bottom as “Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI data, 2014.” Everytown is the $50 million lobbying group that was founded and funded by anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg, a heavy contributor to the I-594 campaign.
If some political campaign used an analysis of FBI data from the National Rifle Association, would that information be accepted at face value, or would it be subjected to strict scrutiny by the mainstream press? Where on the scale would the “Truth Needle” land?
This flyer also says a remarkable thing. “Washington State’s current background checks laws are working.” Yet it also claims that “594 closes a dangerous loophole in these laws.” How can laws be working if there’s a loophole that apparently prevents them from working? If they are working, why “fix” them?
Moving right along, today’s Times report quotes Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, and manager of the Yes on 591 campaign. It also quotes Christian Sinderman, a consultant for the Yes on 594 campaign. The story says that “People on both sides promise that the Marysville Pilchuck shooting won’t be part of electioneering in the final days of this year’s election.”
Gottlieb says “that would be in bad taste,” and Sinderman told the Times, “It is not something that fits into any political conversation.” Evidently someone forgot to tell that to Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, whose name appears on an e-mail circulated by Everytown for Gun Safety earlier this week, announcing a campaign rally for I-594 tomorrow afternoon. This column discussed the text of that message earlier, but to refresh everyone’s memory:
“My heart sank at the news of Friday’s shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School — the third school shooting in Washington State this year, and the 87th in the country since Sandy Hook. For all of us, it was a tragic reminder of the massive, urgent need to do more to make our communities safer.
“We can’t prevent every shooting, but we can do more to make sure fewer lives will be turned upside down by gun violence.
“Voters in Washington State have an opportunity to make history this year by voting YES on Initiative 594 — a measure that would require criminal background checks on all gun sales in Washington State.
“This Saturday, I’ll join hundreds of volunteers, activists, and supporters like you at the YES ON 594 rally in Seattle. Together, we’ll hear from important voices in our movement and join each other in solidarity as we raise our voices for change.”
Did you see that? Looks like the Truth Needle just flew into a haystack.
Many Times readers today are challenging the newspaper to turn loose their truth squad on campaign claims made by I-594 supporters. That is essentially what Gottlieb asked a Times reporter to do via an e-mail exchange earlier this week, observing, “Only fair, right?” This being the last day of October, however, perhaps they should not expect any more surprises.