Wash. gun safety initiative takes another step closer to qualifying for November ballot

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The gun safety initiative I-1639 is an important step closer to qualifying for the November ballot. The first batch of signatures was dropped off Thursday at the Secretary of State's office.

But gun rights groups are gearing up to fight it.

Even though it's nearly 3,000 miles away, the Parkland, Florida school shooting hit home. The former student believed involved was under 21 and legally bought a semi-automatic rifle.

It was out of that effort to get those weapons out of the hands of those under 21 that Initiative-1639 was drawn up. It would raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21, require enhanced background checks and impose safe-storage standards for guns.

"Safe schools and safe communities," said campaign chair Stephen Paolini in June. He and supporters had only a month to get the required 260,000 signatures. The first batch of those signatures arrived in boxes. More are due Friday for a total approaching 360,000.

It is to do what the state Legislature couldn't do: change the laws regarding semi-automatic rifles.

"We are long overdue for us to send a message to our children that they matter more to us than providing easy access to military style weaponry," said Paul Kramer at a state legislative hearing in February. His son Will nearly lost his life in the shooting at a Mukilteo party. The 19-year-old who was arrested legally bought the semi-automatic rifle.

Many gun owners fear this is just another step toward taking away their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"I have to say when I was 18 years old, I was armed with a fully automatic weapon, an actual assault rifle, when I was in the Army," said Jason Pearl of the Glacier Gun Club in Olympia.

"It's definitely not a gun safety measure," said Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation. "It's definitely flat-out gun control."

He said they'll continue the court fight that the initiative itself is illegal because it's too vague and poorly written.

The state Supreme Court has turned back their case once, but Gottlieb said they'll file more challenges soon.

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