Dec 13 | 2018 Re-Wire Policy Conference | Learn More

Gun initiative certified for ballot, new lawsuits question its validity

Secretary of State Kim Wyman officially certified Initiative 1639, the comprehensive gun safety initiative brought forth by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility (AGR), on Friday afternoon. But the path to the ballot still isn’t certain. Two new legal challenges, filed the same day Wyman’s office announced I-1639’s verification, now stand in the way of the initiative making it to the voters in November.

I-1639 was already facing an uphill battle even before the Alliance for Gun Responsibility began its signature gathering campaign. In May, AGR, the NRA, and two citizens (Glen Morgan and Joe Wilson) all filed petitions challenging the initiative’s title and summary description that were set by the Attorney General’s office. The challenge created a delay in printing petitions for the initiative and shortened the window for signature gathering.

Then, at the end of June, the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms filed a petition claiming that the language used on signature gatherers’ petitions violated the Secretary of State’s regulations, such as specific formatting to show changes and new additions to state law. The two groups claimed the petition deficiencies should disqualify the initiative, however the court dismissed the filing.

Now, Alan Gottlieb, founder and Executive Vice President of the Second Amendment Foundation, has filed a lawsuit against Wyman challenging the legitimacy of I-1639. Similar to the Second Amendment Foundation’s petition in June, Gottlieb makes the claim that the language used on the petitions is not a “full, true, and correct copy” of the initiative. Gottlieb filed the lawsuit as a private citizen and Washington voter.

“This initiative is legally invalid. The petitions were not printed in accordance with state law because they did not have a full and correct version of the measure printed on the back,” said Gottlieb in a news release. “This challenge maintains that because the initiative petitions were incorrectly printed, there isn’t a single valid signature on them.”

The NRA also filed a lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court challenging the language used on the I-1639 petitions.

“Secretary of State Wyman has a legal and constitutional duty to reject all I-1639 signatures obtained using fraudulent copies of this initiative,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.

According to a press release from the Secretary of State’s office, Secretary Wyman says, “concerns remain about whether the format of the I-1639 petition signature sheets complies with constitutional and statutory requirements,” but that her authority on the matter is limited.

With the completion of the verification process, I-1639 becomes the first initiative of the three submitted at the beginning of July to formally qualify for the November elections. The Secretary of State’s Office says validation for I-1631, the carbon fee initiative, and I-1634, related to taxes on groceries, will be complete in mid-August.