OLYMPIA, Wash. — After struggling to sway both Washington state and federal lawmakers, proponents of expanding background checks for gun sales are now exploring whether they will have more success by taking the issue directly to voters.
While advocates generally prefer that new gun laws be passed through the legislative process, especially at the national level, they are also concerned about how much sway the National Rifle Association has with lawmakers. Washington Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who had sponsored unsuccessful legislation on background checks at the state level, said a winning ballot initiative would make a statement with broad implications.
“It’s more powerful if the voters do it — as opposed to our doing it,” Pedersen said. “And it would make it easier for the Legislature to do even more.”
On Monday, proponents of universal background checks in Washington will announce their plan to launch a statewide initiative campaign that would require the collection of some 300,000 signatures, according to a person involved in the initiative planning who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement. The advocates have scheduled a fundraiser in Seattle at the end of next month and hope to have a campaign budget in the millions of dollars.
While advocates have had success on background checks in places like Connecticut and Colorado, they’ve been thwarted in some other states and in Congress. The U.S. Senate rejected a plan to expand background checks earlier this month.
Brian Judy, a lobbyist who represents the NRA in Washington state, did not return calls seeking comment about the new initiative.