Gun Control Wins in Washington State

image1Supporters cheer as results come in at an election night party for Initiative 594, a measure seeking universal background checks on gun sales and transfers, on Nov. 4, 2014, in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP

Gun control wins in Washington State

By Michele Richinick

Gun control definitively won in Tuesday’s elections — in Washington, at least.

In the only state where a gun issue was directly on a ballot this week, Washington residents

passed Initiative 594, the measure that will require criminal background checks on all firearms sales

and transfers in the state, including at gun shows and on the Internet. The proposal, more commonly

referred to as “I-594,” gained 60% of voter support, according to the NBC News Election Unit.

A rival campaign, Initiative 591, would have blocked the implementation of background checks, if

passed. But more than half — 55% — of the state’s residents rejected the competing measure,

which was backed by the gun lobby.


This year marked the first major election cycle since 26 people, including 20 first-graders, were shot

to death in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012. The outcome on Tuesday made Washington

the seventh state to require background checks on all gun sales, and the fifth (after Colorado,

Connecticut, Delaware, and New York) to do so since the shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary


Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective

purchasers and to maintain records of the sales. But unlicensed private sellers — online and at gun

shows, for example — are not required to observe the same policies. And about 40% of firearms

sold in the country are transferred by such private sellers, according to the U.S. Department of


Tuesday marked the first time since 2000 that Americans cast ballots directly on background checks.

In the previous vote, citizens in Colorado and Oregon overwhelmingly passed laws to extend the

safety protocol.

“When it comes to guns, the only Washington that mattered this election was Washington State,”

said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The [National Rifle Association] might

be able to intimidate Washington, D.C., and state legislators, but they don’t intimidate American


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