People all over the nation voted in the midterm elections on Nov. 4. In Washington, several groundbreaking gun laws dominated the ballot.
Possibly the most controversial piece of legislature in Washington’s midterm was Initiative 594, which, according to the Washington State voters’ guide, would “apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.”
Initiative 594 won by a relatively large majority, with around 60% of votes in favor of the gun control law, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. The law’s main purpose is to close the “gunshow loophole” that allowed gun buyers to bypass background checks in certain scenarios. This will make it harder for felons to buy firearms, and dramatically tighten regulations for private sellers.
594 has garnered large amounts of attention and donations at the state and national level. Billionaires such as Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have donated to the pro side, while the NRA has fought against it. Former New York governor Michael Bloomberg’s gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety has donated over $2 Million in support of the new legislation, which, according to their website will “reduce gun violence and save lives.”
“As the first state to pass this by popular vote, Washington has sent a message of hope to other states that progress is possible,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in a statement on his website, expressing his support for I-594, “We can act to prevent gun violence. We can save lives.”
A related piece of Washington legislation, Initiative 591, was another controversial topic in this election. It stood directly opposed to I-594 and tried to lower government oversight of firearms. According to the Washington State voters’ guide, it would “prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.”
Initiative 591’s purpose was to cripple any proposed gun control laws at the state level (including Initiative 594), and prevent the state from passing any laws that tighten restrictions beyond the federal level. I-591 did not pass, though it was a close battle with 55% voting ‘no’ according to the Office of the Secretary of State.
The competing initiatives showcased the state’s division on the issue of guns, but the success of Initiative 594 and failure of 591 indicates that the majority of Washington voters want stricter gun regulations. The law’s effect on gun violence remains to be seen, but we can be sure that it will influence gun legislature in the future.