Gun rights advocates got shut out in Washington State on Tuesday, when more than 60 percent of the voters gave a thumbs up to one of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws on the books. That puts Washington near the top of the list for the title of state with the most gun control.
Unfortunately, Washington has been moving toward trying to claim that title for a couple of years. In 2014, voters gave the nod to a requirement for background checks for private gun sales; and in 2016, they said it would be OK for the courts to prevent people who might be deemed a danger to themselves or others from buying a gun.
Initiative 1639 goes way beyond those measures, though. Among other things, it raises the minimum age to buy a semi-automatic rifle to 21, though federal law put the age at 18. It also requires buyers of some guns to pass a more thorough background check, go through a 10-day waiting period and complete a training course.
The 30-page measure also contains a “dangerous access prevention” law that increases liability for gun owners who don’t securely store their weapons. If a firearm ends up in the hands of someone banned from owning a gun, for example, the legal owner could be charged with a felony. Heck, they can even get in trouble for letting a child pose for a photo while holding a gun.
In other words, the voters have given the state carte blanche in terms of using almost every conceivable way to turn a law-abiding gun owner into a lawbreaker, even though the state constitution echoes the intent of the Second Amendment.
The results show a divide in that state that reflects the same sort of split we see in the country, where areas with high population densities dictated the outcome. And, as expected, the initiative had financial backing from venture capitalist Nick Hanauer and Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul Allen. Indeed, an array of anti-gunners spent something to the tune of $5.5 million bankrolling the initiative, far outspending the gun rights supporters.
The Election Day outcome puts Washington in the company of states like California, Hawaii and Massachusetts when it comes to having the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. Of course, time will tell if criminals follow the law, though we suspect they won’t.