By Aaron Alter, SeattlePI
Fueled by unrest and anger over the number of mass shootings in the country, Washington state voters on Tuesday appeared largely in favor of a gun safety measure that would be one of the toughest in the nation.
As of the first count Tuesday night, roughly 61 percent of votes had gone in favor of Initiative 1639.
Sponsored by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR), the initiative’s principle goal was to place more restrictions on the purchase and ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons. The measure included raising the minimum age to purchase such firearms from 18 to 21, adding a mandatory waiting period, more frequent background checks and stricter storage requirements. Purchasing such a weapon would also require a mandatory firearms safety course.
Supporters of the initiative gathered at the Edgewater Hotel on Tuesday night, with attendees ranging from elementary school students to grandparents. Students from area schools were well-represented among campaign members.
Speaking before the results began to roll in, Rainier Beach high school and Kamiak high school seniors Ola Jackson and Niko Battle explained their presence, telling those assembled that they could no longer wait for adults to take action.
When Stephen Paolini, the campaign’s 22-year-old manager, announced the results, the crowd responded with cheers of joy.
“This is a historic moment,” Paolini said. “This is not only the most comprehensive gun violence measure ever put forward in the state of Washington, but it is the only such gun safety measure anywhere in the country, tonight.”
Before election night, the initiative faced a handful of legal challenges. The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit that challenged the original title of the measure, arguing that it was misleading. A judge ruled in their favor, which would have prevented the initiative from appearing on this November’s ballot. The Washington Supreme Court reversed the ruling on appeal from the AGR however, setting the state for the initiative’s inclusion on the ballot.
Among the measure’s sponsors was Mukilteo native Paul Kramer, whose son was injured when a 19-year-old man opened fire at a house party in 2016. Three others were killed that night.
“There have been some significant disappointments over the last couple of years, with the failure of the legislature to act,” Kramer said. “So to take up this initiative, and to see them [Washington voters] appear to show overwhelming support for this…It’s really up-lifting.”
Late billionaire and philanthropist Paul Allen was one of the initiatives most prominent proponents, and donated $1.25 million to the Safe Schools Safe Communities Political Action Committee – the sole registered PAC in favor of the measure. Overall, the SSSC raised $5.49 million during the run-up to election night.
By comparison, three other PACs — Save Our Security No on I-1639, Washingtonians and the National Rifle Association for Freedom 2018, and Stop 1639 Sponsored by Shall Not Be Infringed — raised a combined $692,921.
The age requirement will go into effect on January 1, 2019, while the rest of the initiative’s measures will become active on July 1, 2019.