Religious leaders, law enforcement, public health leaders and victims of gun violence have announced plans to pursue a 2014 initiative to the Legislature requiring criminal background checks in Washington state.
Religious leaders from throughout the state came together on Monday to announce plans to pursue a 2014 initiative to the legislature requiring criminal background checks for firearm sales in Washington state. The Legislature adjourned yesterday without passing similar legislation.
“Today, we are announcing a statewide campaign to bring an initiative to the state Legislature calling for universal background checks,” said Rev. Paul G. Ryan of St. James Cathedral in Seattle. “Preventing gun violence is not only a political issue; it is a solemn moral obligation.”
The religious leaders initially organized after the December tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children and six adults lost their lives. Joining with the newly formed Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the coalition worked to pass background checks in Olympia, where it was a priority for a bipartisan team of legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee.
When it was clear that the bill would not reach a vote, the coalition decided to adopt an initiative strategy to address this urgent issue of public health and safety.
“We will no longer wait,” said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch Sinai. We will no longer wait as another family grieves the death of a loved one, as another youth is shot down on our streets. We will not wait for another Café Racer, or another Sandy Hook. The time has come for sensible violence protection measures.”
Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick, a former legislator and longtime supporter of closing background check loopholes, gave his support to the initiative launch.
“For law enforcement, criminal background checks are essential in protecting lives and property. Closing loopholes in our existing laws is common sense and long overdue,” said Lovick. “Like many, I am disappointed that the Legislature failed to take action on this issue, and Congress remains unwilling — even in the face of overwhelming loss and overwhelming public outcry — to take action.”
“This is a public health crisis,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who in his role as executive oversees the state’s largest public health department. “One hundred thirty people die in King County every year from firearm use, more than auto accidents. The cost is not only human life but millions in medical and emergency costs, and an estimated $174 million in lost work and productivity. Like any health crisis, we can solve it, but it will take decisive action — at the local, state and federal level — to make real progress.”
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility will finalize language for the initiative in the coming weeks and begin gathering signatures in the summer months. Signatures on this type of initiative are due in January. If the Legislature failed to take action, it will be placed on the 2014 general election ballot.
The group is planning a May 30 fundraising event to formally launch campaign effort.