With an assist from two deep-pocketed allies, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility on Monday announced it had raised nearly $3 million for its latest Washington state ballot measure to regulate firearms. Initiative 1639 would raise the purchase age for buying semi-automatic rifles to 21.
OLYMPIA — With an assist from two deep-pocketed allies, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility on Monday announced it had raised nearly $3 million for its latest Washington state ballot measure to further regulate firearms.
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said they are giving $1 million each to the Alliance’s campaign to get Initiative 1639 onto the November election ballot.
The campaign hasn’t yet started gathering the signatures it needs by July because of three legal challenges against it, including one by the National Rifle Association, Alliance spokeswoman Katy Klein said.
The initiative comes after the latest string of mass killings, including the February shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school, that killed 17 people and re-energized advocates for stricter regulations of so-called assault weapons. A shooting last Friday left 10 people dead at a Texas high school.
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While gun-regulation advocates this year pushed a few new laws through the state Legislature — including a ban on bump stocks, which can make a semi-automatic rifle fire much like an automatic weapon — they could not find the votes for more sweeping regulations.
Enter I-1639, which among other things would raise the minimum age to purchase a semi-automatic weapon to 21 and require enhanced background checks, training and waiting periods to obtain those firearms.
The proposal would also require gun owners to keep firearms secured at home. Gun owners could face misdemeanor or felony charges in certain circumstances if they allow someone prohibited from obtaining a weapon access to a firearm.
In a tweet Monday, Allen announced his $1 million donation to the initiative campaign, which he called “a reasonable and necessary measure that will improve the safety of our schools and our communities …”
“I hope people throughout the state will support the campaign, so that we can qualify and pass this important initiative into law,” Allen said.
Hanauer and his wife gave another $1 million, according to a tweet by Hanauer and a spokeswoman for the Alliance.
Allen and Hanauer are two in a stable of well-heeled Washington residents who helped bankroll initiatives supported by the Alliance in recent years that voters approved by wide margins.
In 2014, voters approved Initiative 594, which expanded gun-purchase background checks in Washington state.
Two years later, voters passed Initiative 1491, which created what are known as extreme risk protection orders. Such judicial orders can be requested by law-enforcement officers, families and others to keep firearms away from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
For I-1639 to make the ballot this year, the initiative campaign must gather the signatures of at least 259,622 registered voters by July 6.
It’s too early to tell whether gun-rights advocates will mount an organized campaign against I-1639. About 2,500 people — some carrying firearms — gathered at the state Capitol last month to show their support for gun rights.
Gun-rights supporters have called raising the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles an infringement of the 2nd Amendment. At least one Washington lawmaker critical of previous proposals for safe storage regulations has called that type of policy a potential violation of the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.
In an email, National Rifle Association spokesman Lars Dalseide argued that potential criminals would buy guns illegally, rather than following I-1639 if it became law.
Because of that, the initiative just puts “more restrictions upon law-abiding gun owners,” Dalseide wrote.
Late last week, the National Rifle Association filed a legal challenge in Thurston County Superior Court to the language on ballots that would describe I-1639 to voters.
Parts of the ballot description “are impermissibly designed to prejudice a voter in favor of the measure by omitting key information and using language designed to sway an uninformed voter,” the challenge said.
The Alliance is waiting to get that challenge and two others made by individuals resolved before it begins gathering signatures, spokeswoman Klein said.