A prominent gun safety organization will soon begin gathering signatures to get the latest initiative on the ballot. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility announced a ballot measure to raise the purchase age for semi-automatic weapons to 21, expand background checks for those purchases, and make other changes. The same group was behind two other successful initiatives in Washington: expanded background checks in 2014 and the creation of extreme risk protection orders in 2016.
In a statement announcing the new initiative, Paul Kramer, whose son was shot and injured during a 2016 shooting in Mukilteo, said, "Teens should not be able to possess these dangerous weapons. We've seen what can happen when they do. We can't let that happen again." At a Mukilteo house party in 2016, Allen Ivanov, then 19, used an AR-15-style rifle to kill three people and injure Kramer's son. Authorities said Ivanov had recently purchased the gun at a Cabela's in Marysville.
Along with raising the purchase age, the initiative would also establish a waiting period of up to 10 days for "assault weapon" purchases, expand background checks, require people who buy semi-automatic weapons to show they have completed a safety training in the last five years, require notification to gun buyers that owning a gun increases the risk of injury, suicide, domestic violence, and homicide, and hold "gun owners responsible if a child or other prohibited person accesses and uses an unsafely stored firearm to harm themselves or another person."
"Semiautomatic firearms are designed to kill people," Alliance for Gun Responsibility CEO Renée Hopkins said in a statement.
The group announced the initiative Friday, when some students walked out of class to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. The next day, gun rights advocates rallied at the state capitol building. There, Republican State Senator Phil Fortunato told the crowd "we're going to start a campaign that says 'decline to sign.'"
The announcement follows the state legislature's failure to pass similar measures this session. Senator David Frockt, a Seattle Democrat who sponsored similar measures in the legislature, wrote on Twitter that he is "pleased" at the news of the ballot measure. "Ironic that those who opposed our bill in the leg will now face [a] much more robust initiative on [the] ballot than would have been considered during session," he wrote. "But they made their choice. Now no one will be able to duck it. All will have to take a position in their upcoming campaigns."
A 2017 poll funded by supporters of gun safety laws found that 65 percent of likely Washington voters said they would support new laws to "heavily restrict access to semi-automatic firearms."
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility will need about 260,000 signatures to qualify for the 2018 ballot.