The Washington state Supreme Court overturned a Thurston County court decision about Initiative I-1639. The measure, among other things, would raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21.
OLYMPIA — The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that the proposed gun-regulations measure, Initiative 1639, will appear on November’s election ballot.
The decision clears the way for a statewide vote on a sweeping proposal that, among other things, would raise the legal age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21.
Friday’s ruling comes after a Thurston County judge earlier this month blocked the proposed initiative after Alan Gottlieb of the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association (NRA) challenged the legality of the campaign’s signature-gathering petitions.
Gun-rights advocates had argued the petitions violated state law because they did not include text formatting such as underlines and strike-throughs to demonstrate how exactly the initiative would change the language of existing gun laws.
Most Read Local Stories
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 29: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the nation
- ER doctor who criticized Bellingham hospital's coronavirus protections has been fired
- Coronavirus daily news updates, March 30: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the nation VIEW
- Age is not the only risk for severe coronavirus disease
- Seattle pilot's misdiagnosis highlights challenges around coronavirus testing
But a four-page order released Friday and signed by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst reversed the lower court’s ruling.
State law “does not allow for pre-election judicial review of the form, process, substance, or constitutionality of an initiative petition,” according to the order.
Neither Gottlieb nor the NRA immediately responded to requests for comment Friday evening.
The I-1639 campaign cheered the decision in a Facebook post Friday, writing: “Washingtonians WILL have the chance to vote Yes on 1639 this November!!!!!”
The measure would make several changes to the law. Aside from raising the purchase age to 21 for semi-automatic rifle purchases, it would mandate training, enhanced background checks and waiting periods in order to obtain them.
It would also require owners to keep firearms secured at home. Gun owners could face misdemeanor or felony charges in some circumstances if someone prohibited from possessing a weapon accessed the firearm.
Gun-rights advocates broadly view the measure as a violation of the Second Amendment, and some view the safe-storage component as a breach of the Fourth Amendment.
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which led the signature-gathering campaign, acknowledged that a technical error led to the formatting elements, like strike-throughs, being excluded from its petitions.
But the campaign has argued that the law doesn’t require that formatting and that the signature petitions displayed the entire proposal.
After the campaign turned in nearly 380,000 signatures, Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified the measure for the ballot.
Wyman had expressed concerns about the formatting of the petitions, but said she had no legal authority to block it from the ballot. The justices on Friday noted that in their decision.
It remains to be seen whether gun-rights groups will spend heavily against the initiative. State campaign-finance records show the NRA has donated $100,000 to a campaign to oppose the measure.
Another campaign registered to oppose the initiative, Save Our Security, has raised about $18,000.
The Alliance has already raised more than $4.3 million, though most of that has already been spent, according to state records.
The campaign relied heavily on high-dollar contributions from Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.
The gun-violence-prevention group formed by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Everytown for Gun Safety, has also donated $250,000.