Washington Gun Control Advocates Regroup

By Amy Radil

Gun control advocates are regrouping this week. They’re looking at their options, now that a bill to broaden background checks for gun sales failed in the Washington legislature.

They want to seize a moment when they believe public sentiment is on their side.

Gun control activists held a meeting at the First United Methodist Church in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood Thursday. They say their polling demonstrates that most Washington residents support universal background checks for gun purchases, despite the legislature’s failure to enact it.

Reverend Sandy Brown is the pastor at First Methodist and a member of the new “Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.” He says his group is debating whether to mount a ballot initiative in this fall’s election, when turnout is expected to be low.

Brown: “The challenge is that the emotions are running high about this right now. So we want to be able to ride the tide of public sentiment that is so unanimous about this.”

It’s not unanimous, but Brown says their polling suggests that up to 90% of Washington residents support universal background checks.

He says his group will try to learn from the success of last year’s initiatives legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana. The alliance is also looking at going back to the legislature with other proposals, to limit the number of guns or the amount of ammunition purchased at one time. 

He says they want to develop a coalition that can contact legislators as quickly and vigorously as their opponents did.
Brown says he has a personal tie to the issue of universal background checks – two years ago he sought a protection order against a woman who is accused of stalking him.

Brown: “She is somebody that came and visited our church and pretty soon I was getting love letters and she was showing up at night at my house and it became around our personal safety.”

Brown says police informed him that the woman had tried to buy a gun but was prevented when the background check revealed her criminal history. However, right now someone can avoid the background check by purchasing a gun from a private citizen or at a gun show.

Members of the National Rifle Association opposed changing the law. They told legislators more background checks would be a burden on law-abiding gun owners.

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