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Updated Monday, April 29, 2013 at 03:46 PM

Gun-control advocates plan state initiative on background checks

By Brian M. Rosenthal
The Seattle Times

Weeks after defeat in the state Legislature and U.S. Congress, local gun-control advocates announced Monday that they're taking their case to the people.

"We are here today to ask our elected officials why they have failed us," said the Rev. Sandy Brown of Seattle's First United Method Church, who was flanked by faith leaders, elected officials and activists the morning after the end of Washington's 2013 regular legislative session.

The 2014 initiative would seek to require background checks for all gun sales, not just those from licensed dealers as exists under the current law, said Zach Silk of the new Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which will run the campaign.

A similar proposal narrowly failed in the Legislature in March and in Congress earlier this month.

The initiative, which supporters hope to file next month, would go first to the 2014 Legislature. If it did not pass there, to the ballot box that November.

Silk said the campaign plans to raise several million dollars, including money from national gun control groups.

"We believe we will win and prevail," he said.

The last gun-control initiative on the ballot in Washington state did not prevail. Initiative 676, to require trigger locks on handguns, failed overwhelmingly in 1997.

Gun-rights activists say the expanded checks would be ineffective and unconstitutional, unnecessarily burdening law-abiding gun owners.

But speakers at the event, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, said recent polls indicate the public supports background checks.

And they said momentum is on their side following recent mass shootings at Cafe Racer in Seattle and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

"We will not wait for another Cafe Racer or another Sandy Hook," said Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Seattle's Temple De Hirsch Sinai. "It is time we stand up to be heard."


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