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Originally published November 4, 2014 at 9:37 PM | Page modified November 4, 2014 at 9:45 PM

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Editorial: Voters stand ground on gun control in passing I-594 over I-591

In passing Initiative 594, Washington voters reset the discussion on gun control.

Seattle Times Editorial


ON the intractable issue of gun control, Washington voters have shot back.

Tuesday, voters took aim at the state Legislature’s inability last year to pass basic, public-safety-focused background checks. And they shot holes in the myth that the National Rifle Association, and its allies, represent the public interest.

The question of what voters wanted was unnecessarily complicated by the dueling measures on the ballot: Initiative 594, ensuring every gun buyer will have to pass a background check, handily passed; Initiative 591, which would have outsourced state gun-control policy to the dysfunctional U.S. Congress, is trailing.

The 3-to-2 margin in favor of I-594 indicates voters saw through the disingenuous argument made repeatedly by opponents of I-594 that background checks are the first step toward mass gun confiscation.

They also saw through the smoke screen from I-594’s opponents, who claimed the measure would criminalize such transfers as intrafamily gifts. It will not.

Instead, I-594 represents a restatement of the compact gun owners have with society: The fundamental right to keep and bear arms is not absolute.

Some members of society lose that right, due to mental illness or criminality, yet can easily buy firearms via unregulated online gun bazaars. Keeping guns out of their hands should give comfort to law-abiding gun owners and non-gun-owning citizens.

The margin for I-594 also indicates that voters feel the grim, relentless toll of gun violence. More people are killed in King County each year by gun violence than car crashes.

This is a historic moment for Washington voters. Nationally, I-594 was the only gun control measure on a statewide ballot. The state’s message should be heard around the country.

Tuesday’s vote should also reset the civic discussion about gun control, present and future.

When the state House, controlled by Democrats, last session considered passing background checks, the NRA and its allies whipped up a frenzy.

Tuesday’s vote pulled back the curtain on that charade, to reveal the true strength of opposition to reasonable gun control.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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