West­ern bal­lot ini­tia­tives tighten gun con­trols

Maine vot­ers re­ject ex­panded checks

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

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.

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