Western ballot initiatives tighten gun controls
Maine voters reject expanded checks
Several western states approved ballot initiatives this week to tighten gun controls, with voters in Washington setting up a potential constitutional battle after they approved a measure that would allow police or family members to petition a court to strip someone of his or her gun rights.
Nevada voters approved tighter background checks on gun purchases, and Californians passed an initiative to limit highcapacity ammunition magazines.
“Voters and gun safety scored key victories in diverse states including Nevada and Washington, proving once again that the gun lobby may be able to control lawmakers, but it cannot bully voters,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group co-founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The initiative in Washington would allow family or police to petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” that would require someone to surrender their firearms if they’re found to be a significant risk to themselves or others because they have a gun.
Gun rights advocates said the Washington initiative raised serious constitutional questions about denying people their Second Amendment rights.
“This law would be ripe for abuse by individuals that disagree with the Second Amendment, and the mere insinuation that gun ownership makes you a danger to yourself or others is offensive and insulting,” the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a recent statement on the gun rights group’s website.
Washington’s initiative garnered 71 percent of the vote, while California’s won with 63 percent. Nevada’s vote was much closer, with only a slim majority backing the restrictions.
Gun control backers did suffer a setback in Maine, where voters rejected a ballot item to expand gun-purchase background checks with what appeared to be a slight majority vote.
And more broadly gun control advocates were reeling after voters nationally elected Donald Trump to the White House, boosting the novice politician who had mounted a rabid defense of the Second Amendment in his campaign. Pro-gun Republicans also maintained majorities in both the House and Senate.
Mr. Trump received the NRA’s endorsement and significant financial support, and now has the opportunity to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat left by the death of former Justice Antonin Scalia.
He said during the third presidential debate the country needs a Supreme Court that “is going to uphold the Second Amendment,” and has hammered Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for criticizing the landmark 2008 District of Columbia v. Heller decision that affirmed individuals’ right to keep and bear arms.
“Trump’s victory repudiates the assertion by gun control advocates that the political calculus regarding the Second Amendment has changed,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA.
The gun rights group also congratulated a number of GOP senators it had supported who won re-election and helped preserve at least a 51-49 Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. The NRA-backed senators included Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who helped lead an effort in the U.S. Senate to pass new gun controls in 2013, was re-elected in Pennsylvania. Mr. Bloomberg had actually offered Mr. Toomey financial support in the race through his Independence USA PAC.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of three other Republican senators who supported Mr. Toomey’s bill, handily won a sixth Senate term, though Mr. McCain’s longtime incumbency and the Republican lean of the state were likely more significant factors than guns in his race against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, who touted herself as a “proud gun owner and strong supporter of the Second Amendment.”
GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, another GOP senator to support Mr. Toomey’s bill, lost to Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth in his bid for re-election in Illinois.
Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, had also supported the legislation. Ms. Collins won Everytown’s endorsement two years ago when she easily won re-election.
Washington’s gun control initiative garnered 71 percent of the vote, while California’s won with 63 percent. Nevada was closer, with only a slim majority backing the restrictions.