Poll: Washington State Voters May Pass Conflicting Ballot Initiatives on Gun Control

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Nov 01, 2014 1:36 PM
Poll: Washington State Voters May Pass Conflicting Ballot Initiatives on Gun Control

Voters in Washington state will be confronted with two dueling gun measures on the ballot come Election Day, but what happens if both pass?

Bankrolled by billionaires, I-594, the Washington Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative, has not only garnered the most attention, according to a new poll, it looks like voters will approve the measure, too.

The poll, conducted by the University of Washington for Seattle’s public television channel KCTS, shows Initiative 594 earning 64 percent of the vote, including leaners. Just 31 percent say they will vote or are leaning toward voting against the measure.

Initiative 594 would mandate background checks on everyone purchasing a firearm in Washington. It exempts antiques and gun transfers between immediate family members, but it requires gun dealers to receive confirmation in writing that a buyer has checked.

Supporters have spent far more than opponents of the proposed measure, thanks to big contributions from billionaires, such as Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Nick Hanauer. The primary committee supporting the measure has raised more than $10 million, compared with just over $600,000 raised and spent by the National Rifle Association and Washington Citizens Against Regulatory Excess, the two primary opponents.

But what about I-591, the Washington Gun Rights Measure that would protect citizens against illegal search and seizures of firearms and prevent the state from implementing stricter background check laws than the federal government? According to the same poll, it too may pass. A plurality of voters support the gun-rights initiative, 45 percent to 43 percent.

The state has never had conflicting ballot measures pass, so if that happens, the issue will likely be dealt with in the State Supreme Court.

“[Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President and Founder Alan] Gottlieb says he believes I-594 will pass. And since it takes a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to change an initiative in its first two years, it wouldn’t be easy to amend the law. But if both initiatives pass, the courts would likely get involved to determine the wishes of voters and might give I-594’s opponents leverage in helping shape what gets enacted into law.

“If 591 passes as well, well then we have a way to fix the problem,” Gottlieb told The Seattle Times.