(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
REGROUPING: Initiative repeal effort falls short of needed signature amount to get on 2020 ballot…
Facing a tight deadline to get signatures, the grassroots effort to repeal I-1639 fell short of the 258,000 signatures to make the 2020 ballot as its own initiative, but organizers are not giving up.
“Let’s take a short break and meet back here after the first of the year,” said Daniel Mitchell, owner of Sporting Systems in Vancouver on the effort’s Facebook page. “We will transition this high-energy group into a legislative action team. We must subdue all the gun laws proposed in the next legislative session.”
This comes after I-1639 passed in 2018, causing a large chunk of Washington sheriffs and law enforcement officers like Republic Police Chief and state governor candidate Loren Culp to declare their displeasure with the measure that would put additional requirements on gun ownership, along with new safe storage laws for gun owners, while also raising the semi-automatic gun ownership age to 21. Along with lawsuits by guns rights groups, disapproval from law enforcement agencies and affidavits filed against Washington AG Bob Ferguson, this effort was aimed at repealing the initiative outright through the process of the state’s own initiative process.
According to organizers like John Valle, the effort was “a coalition of gun range and gun shop owners, retired law enforcement officers, current law enforcement officers, veterans, current military reservists, soccer moms, working dads and surprisingly a large group of democrats as well,” Valle said. “I think guns transcend political lines and we have a better chance of passing this than say the vehicle tax initiative.”
With a Jan. 2 deadline, the group had only a few short months during the holiday season to gather the needed signatures. Mitchell’s Sporting Systems paid for and printed 20,000 sheets for signatures and then distributed them to eight regional distribution centers across the state. Volunteers distributed it further to nearly 300 signing locations.
In his statement, Mitchell thanked individuals, shops, dealers and manufacturers for their efforts but also pointed out that there was very little media support.
“Although a few of us were featured on conservative talk radio outlets, our movement was fueled nearly 100 percent by personal social media,” Mitchell wrote. “We repeatedly reached out to newspapers and TV stations across the state but were completely ignored. Clearly our movement doesn’t fit their agenda, and they recognized their coverage would give this the air it needed to flourish.”
The Independent and the Statesman-Examiner wrote several stories and shared several on the I-1639 repeal effort in NE Washington.
Mitchell also said the movement received little political party support since it was a presidential election year and the movement had little funding. He added that the show of support for the repeal was encouraging to political parties.
He also clarified the NRA’s role in this, saying the NRA is heavily involved with a lawsuit concerning I-1639 and has invested significant funding towards legal bills challenging it in federal court.
“The NRA is a national organization and not a state-specific organization,” Mitchell said. “This initiative wasn’t on their radar at all and was in fact a complete surprise.”
According to Mitchell’s public statement, Vancouver Washington gathered the most signatures: 27,533 at his own Sporting Systems store. In Tacoma, Bullseye gathered 20,500 signatures and Skagit Arms also gathered 15,000 signatures.
In Spokane, 2,314 signatures were gathered.
“This movement has inspired many. I am pleased to see the energy and passion for the Second Amendment in our country is alive,” Mitchell said. “I was happy to sacrifice my time, money and energy to do the right thing.”
For ballot initiatives, 258,000 signatures is required, while it is recommended that 300,000 signatures are gathered because some signatures will get thrown out for a variety of reasons. The movement was 171,938 signatures short, but organizers did not gather signatures the entire year.