NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Unanimous Supreme Court rules Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s I‑1639 will stay on ballot

The Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty’s Ini­tia­tive 1639 will remain on the Novem­ber 2018 bal­lot, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court decid­ed late today, in a unan­i­mous rul­ing signed by the Court’s Chief Jus­tice, Mary Fairhurst.

I‑1639, spon­sored by Paul Kramer, would increase the min­i­mum age to buy a semi­au­to­mat­ic weapon, impose new safe stor­age require­ments, and require enhanced back­ground checks. NPI has tak­en a posi­tion sup­port­ing the mea­sure.

“This action was not prop­er­ly brought under RCW 29A.72.240,” Chief Jus­tice Fairhurst wrote for the Court in a four-page opin­ion.

“The pur­pose of this statute is nar­row; it does not allow for pre­elec­tion judi­cial review of the form, process, sub­stance, or con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of an ini­tia­tive peti­tion. The plain lan­guage of RCW 29A.72.240 lim­its the court to exam­in­ing whether the peti­tions “con­tain the req­ui­site num­ber of sig­na­tures of legal vot­ers.”

The high court’s ver­dict is a sting­ing defeat for the Nation­al Rife Asso­ci­a­tion and Alan Got­tlieb, who last week per­suad­ed Thurston Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court Judge James Dixon to take the unprece­dent­ed step of remov­ing the mea­sure from the bal­lot on the grounds that the text on the back of the peti­tion was too small and lack­ing for­mat­ting marks indi­cat­ing new and delet­ed lan­guage.

The Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty hailed the rul­ing.

“This isn’t the first time the gun lob­by has tried to stop Wash­ing­ton vot­ers from enact­ing safer gun laws,” not­ed Alliance CEO Renee Hop­kins.

“When the peo­ple of this state have tried to put respon­si­ble laws into place, the NRA and the Sec­ond Amend­ment Foun­da­tion have always stood in the way. It’s dis­ap­point­ing when they do so, but the Alliance has pre­vailed each time the gun lob­by­ists and their allies irre­spon­si­bly attempt to take pow­er away from Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. The deci­sion today is just anoth­er exam­ple of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans defeat­ing the gun lobby’s cal­lous dis­re­gard for our lives and our futures.”

“The gun lob­by and their lawyers have been mak­ing des­per­ate, Hail Mary attempts to stop Ini­tia­tive 1639 from the start,” added cam­paign man­ag­er Stephen Paoli­ni.

“They know they won’t be able to pre­vent vot­ers from pass­ing the ini­tia­tive in Novem­ber, so they have tried to stop us from even get­ting there.”

“We will not be silenced so eas­i­ly and we will not stand by as the gun lob­by endan­gers the lives of our fel­low Wash­ing­to­ni­ans. The Court today declared unan­i­mous­ly that we will get the chance to stand up, be heard, and make our schools and our com­mu­ni­ties safer, no mat­ter what the gun lob­by­ists want.”

The Supreme Court’s deci­sion will undoubt­ed­ly anger the right wing, but it is in keep­ing with prece­dent. The Court has repeat­ed­ly declined over the years to set aside ini­tia­tives that had suf­fi­cient sig­na­tures to qual­i­fy from going before the peo­ple for a vote — even Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives that had clear scope defects.

“If you can’t win a vote, you try to can­cel it or block it,” Eyman assert­ed in 2015 when his I‑1366 was being chal­lenged on scope grounds.

I‑1366 stayed on the bal­lot and was lat­er struck down as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al in a post-elec­tion legal chal­lenge that Eyman did not believe would be suc­cess­ful.

Going by Eyman’s log­ic, it’s no won­der that the NRA and Alan Got­tlieb were so des­per­ate to get I‑1639 tossed off the bal­lot. They are clear­ly very afraid of los­ing to the Alliance for Gun Respon­si­bil­i­ty for the third time in a row.

Their attempt to inval­i­date the sig­na­tures of the 378,000 Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who signed I‑1639 has now failed, how­ev­er, and the mea­sure has a green light to pro­ceed to the Novem­ber 2018 bal­lot.

NPI urges a YES vote on I‑1639. Peo­ple who are killed by guns do not have the free­dom to enjoy the ideals of life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness that this coun­try was found­ed upon. Gun vio­lence is pre­ventable, and it’s up to us as a soci­ety to decide what we val­ue. We choose life, which is why we sup­port I‑1639.

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