Look Who’s Outgunning Whom in Dueling Firearms Initiatives

When it comes to the battle over gun control, firearms advocates often seem to have the upper-hand. The National Rifle Association is, after all, a fearsomely powerful organization.

Alan Gotlieb’s two Bellevue-based sister organizations, the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, wield enormous influence as well. See the background checks bill that died in the legislature last session after opposition from Gottlieb and his supporters.

It’s all the more impressive, then, that backers of Initiative 594, which like the failed legislative bill would mandate near universal background checks, are currently outgunning opponents raising signatures for a competing bill.

Yesterday, I-594 supporters hauled 11 boxes stuffed with signed petitions to the Secretary of State’s office in Olympia. Christian Sinderman, spokesperson for the initiative, says the petitions contained 250,000 signatures in all—the amount it needs to move forward.

While the campaign needs to gather some 75,000 more to account for those judged invalid, I-594’s progress is unusual. As an initiative to the legislature, which will go on the 2014 ballot if lawmakers decline to act, I-594 doesn’t have to turn in signatures until Jan. 3.

Secretary of State spokesperson David Ammons says yesterday’s signature delivery was “the earliest we’ve ever seen it.” Usually, he says, initiative campaigns wait until the very last day to turn in what they have.

More typically, supporters of Initiative 591, which would prevent background checks stricter than required by national law, have turned in no signatures so far.

Speaking with Seattle Weekly, Sinderman questions whether the initiative campaign, which is being orchestrated by Gottlieb’s Citizen’s Committee, is still going. “We haven’t seen their signature gatherers anywhere in the last few weeks,” he says.

“They haven’t been looking very hard,” counters Dave Workman, editor of The Gun Mag, affiliated with the Second Amendment Foundation. “I talked to one guy who called me from Cle Elum who was collecting signatures by the bushel.”

Gottlieb told the The Spokesman-Review that his campaign is on track to turn in signatures by December.

Yet, financially too, his side is behind. I-591 has raised a little under $600,000, while its gun control counterpart boasts a war chest of more than $1 million.

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