Plenty of Work Ahead
By Jeff Knox
(November 6, 2014) Republicans won big on Tuesday. Not only did they gain the majority in the US Senate, they also picked up seats in the House, state legislatures, and governors’ offices. GunVoters played a significant role in many of those races. The question now is what the Republicans are going to do with their new-found power? They still have Barack Obama in the White House so they’re not going to have much luck getting controversial legislation signed into law, and they don’t have the votes to override vetoes. The nation is still in the doldrums economically, and things are firing up in the Middle East again with Daesh murdering Christians and Western sympathizers. And then there’s the issue of illegal immigrants and controlling the border.
Throw into that mix the bad news out of Washington State where Initiative 594, criminalizing private firearm transfers, was passed by a 60-40 margin. While 60% is a far cry from the 90% support for “universal background checks” that proponents of the idea continue to claim, it is enough to embolden those proponents to continue with their plans to bring similar initiatives to other states that offer the initiative process, and to keep pushing for state and federal legislation.
Initiatives are a way of bypassing the legislature and taking measures directly to the voters by petition of the electorate. Typically some special interest group that has been frustrated by the legislative process will start a petition for an initiative and hire people to collect the requisite number of signatures to get their legislation put directly on the ballot. The problem with initiatives is that petition signers and voters rarely know what the initiative really does. Like Nancy Pelosi’s famous claim that Congress had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in the bill, initiative petition signers, and ultimately the voters, rarely read the actual initiative. Instead they go by the title and whatever the signature gatherer or the TV commercials tell them the initiative will do. In the case of Washington’s I-594, the title on the ballot said it was an initiative to require background checks on all firearm transfers, and the TV commercials said it was a simple, commonsense measure to keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives.
What I-594 actually does is require that anyone wishing to sell, trade, or give away a firearm must, with only a few narrow exceptions for close family members, pay a licensed dealer to process the transaction. Any transfer that does not go through a licensed dealer is a crime, even if the seller knows the buyer well, and both own multiple firearms and hold concealed carry licenses. Going through a dealer not only adds expense and inconvenience to the process, it also creates a government record of the buyer, the seller, and the gun. In other words it is gun registration. And, of course, it will have no impact on criminals.
To make matters worse, in the 16 pages of legalese in the initiative, there is no clear definition of what exactly constitutes a “transfer.” Any act of simply handing a gun to someone could be considered a transfer; even just letting your buddy handle your new shotgun in your own home. The law makes exceptions for close family members and specific things like temporarily loaning a gun to someone at a shooting range or in the hunting fields. Those exceptions strongly suggest that temporarily loaning a gun under other circumstances would not be exempt. That means that loaning a gun to your neighbor for a hike in bear country would require paying a dealer to process the transfer as a sale, as would a soldier leaving his guns with his girlfriend for her protection when he deployed.
Bloomberg and company put a couple of million dollars into I-594 and they got millions more from fellow billionaires like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Ballmer. At this point it’s unclear whether these Washington-based elitist billionaires will continue providing financial support for this type of initiative when Bloomberg tries it in other states, but even if they don’t, Bloomberg has the resources to pour millions of dollars of his own into those efforts without making a dent in his almost $30 billion fortune, and there are always other anti-rights billionaires like George Soros to chip in. Efforts are already underway to begin collecting signatures for an initiative in Nevada for 2015, and rumor has it that Arizona and Utah are being targeted for 2016.
Rights advocates across the country are gearing up to meet Bloomberg head-on. Our hope is to stop these efforts dead in their tracks by educating people to the fact that this is not about keeping guns away from bad guys and crazy people, but rather about creating records of gun owners and making the process of buying, selling, or giving a gun more complicated, expensive, and perilous.
GunVoters are counting on the Republicans we helped put into office to back us up and do what they can to help us defeat Bloomberg’s anti-rights agenda in Congress, in state legislatures, and through initiatives. As my father used to say, the Republicans need to remember to “dance with the ones what brung ‘em to the ball.”
It’s up to all of us to keep reminding our elected officials that we brought them into office and we can send them home.
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