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Originally published Saturday, October 4, 2014 at 4:05 PM

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Guest: I-591 would keep the state out of your gun cabinet

Initiative 591 would prevent government gun confiscation without due process, writes guest columnist Alan Gottlieb.

Special to The Times


INITIATIVE 591 is a simple, one-page measure that would protect the integrity of background checks by requiring that such checks conducted in Washington comply with a uniform national standard.

It would also protect against illegal search and seizure, preventing politicians and bureaucrats driven by an anti-rights agenda from depriving citizens of their property without due process.

Initiative 591 is supported by rank-and-file law enforcement. It has been endorsed by two major statewide law-enforcement organizations — the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, which is the oldest and largest law-enforcement group in the state, and the Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association. I-591 is the only ballot measure endorsed by law-enforcement organizations.

In addition, Joe Dawson,president of the Washington State Retired Deputy Sheriffs and Police Officers Association, has also endorsed I-591. As has Phil Shave, retired chief of law enforcement for Washington State Parks.

Initiative 591 has also been endorsed by state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, firearm safety training organizations and several civic organizations.

Initiative 591 would prevent government gun confiscation without due process. Those who say this could never happen have forgotten the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. More than 1,100 firearms were seized without due process, warrants or probable cause. Some people never got their property back. We are seeing confiscation of firearms in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and California under restrictive gun laws that were passed with promises that they would not affect the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Initiative 591 affects Washington state citizens whether they own a gun or not. We have already seen legislation proposed at least three different times that would have allowed police to enter your home and search your bedroom for lawfully owned firearms without a warrant or court order. This sort of activity without due process cannot be permitted. Government agencies are collecting record amounts of your personal data, raising grave privacy concerns.

I-591 protects background check uniformity. It prevents unwarranted intrusion by the state or its subdivisions into temporary firearm loans to friends or in-laws. It stops the state from creating a universal gun registry that could enable future confiscation. It maintains public safety without invading individual privacy or turning law-abiding citizens into unwitting criminals. Maintaining balance between privacy rights and public safety is what Initiative 591 is all about.

On the other hand, rank-and-file law enforcement oppose Initiative 594.

I-594 is an unfunded mandate that diverts scarce law-enforcement resources away from keeping violent criminals off our streets, making us all less safe. Do you want sex offenders released from crowded prisons to make room for people convicted of family-firearm transfer violations?

I-594 is 18 pages of costly and confusing regulatory excess. It is punitive to lawful firearms owners. Proponents want you to pass it so you can find out what’s in it. Before you vote, consult your attorney to see how it criminalizes your behavior. Want to lend your sister-in-law a gun to protect herself? Want to loan your adult sons shotguns to go hunting? I-594 makes you a criminal. A police officer who loans a personal firearm to a fellow officer would face criminal prosecution.

The more than 7,500 police and sheriff’s officers who oppose I-594 know that criminals would still acquire firearms where they do now: the black market, straw purchasers, theft, and illicit sources like gangs and drug dealers.

Initiative 594 creates a universal government database of all lawful handgun owners. We deserve the protection of a well-written background check law that protects the right of privacy for lawful firearms owners.

We all want guns out of the hands of violent criminals and the dangerously unstable who are a threat to people like us. But this is not the way to do it. You can’t change criminal behavior by criminalizing lawful behavior.

Polls show that a large number of voters support both ballot measures. They’re not confused. They are conflicted. While everyone wants better background checks, they recognize the significant problems contained in the 18 pages of I-594. And they know that if I-594 is passed by itself, the Legislature is practically prohibited by law from fixing it. That is why it is important to vote yes on I-591.

Alan Gottlieb is the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

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