An armed man shot a Seattle bus driver this week because he didn’t want to pay the fare. Police later killed him. In Louisiana, a gunman took hostages in a rural bank. These are not unusual events. They occur almost every day somewhere in America.
Although polls show that ongoing gun violence has convinced 80 percent of Washington state residents of the need for criminal background checks in all gun sales, the Legislature has refused to tackle any issue that might incur the wrath of the National Rifle Association.
As of Monday, 162,576 people had signed on to an initiative to the Legislature, forcing lawmakers to take a vote on a requirement to conduct the same background checks on firearm sales at private gun shows and over the Internet as the state does now with sales at licensed gun dealers. The initiative needs about 250,000 valid signatures by Jan. 3.
If the Legislature still refuses to act, then Initiative 594 would go on the general election ballot in November next year.
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The initiative campaign was launched by the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and supported by several other organizations advocating for measures to reduce gun violence in the state. Volunteers all over the state are taking petitions door-to-door and to city streets.
Legislators need public support to stand up to the gun lobby. Faced with the potential of a ballot measure that, according to recent polling, almost certainly would pass, state lawmakers should find the courage to write and pass comparable legislation.
We would prefer a background check bill that goes through the legislative process, because it would benefit from reviews and amendments that could make it stronger. But in the absence of political courage, voters undoubtedly will take matters into their own hands.
We rarely encourage voters to sign initiative petitions and usually prefer legislative action to voter initiatives. But this is an initiative worth signing.