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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