Washington Gun Rights Measure, Initiative 591 (2014)

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Washington Initiative 591
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Type:Initiative to the Legislature
Referred by:Citizens
Status:On the ballot
2014 measures
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November 4
Initiative 594
Initiative 591
Advisory Vote No. 8
Advisory Vote No. 9
Initiative 1351
EndorsementsFull text
Local measures
The Washington Gun Rights Measure, Initiative 591 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature. If approved by voters, the measure would prevent the government from confiscating firearms without due process and implementing background checks unless a federal standard is established.[1]

Text of measure

Ballot title

The certified ballot title reads as follows:[2]

This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

Should this measure be enacted into law?

[ ] Yes

[ ] No [3]

Ballot summary

The ballot summary reads as follows:[2]

The Law As It Presently Exists

Both state and federal laws require that certain sellers of firearms conduct background checks of buyers before selling firearms to determine whether the buyer can legally possess a firearm. Washington law makes it illegal for convicted felons to possess firearms. It also makes it illegal for certain others to possess firearms, including people who: (1) have been convicted of certain misdemeanors; (2) have been issued certain types of restraining orders; (3) have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity; (4) have been found mentally incompetent; or (5) have certain criminal charges pending. It is a felony to deliver any firearm to any person reasonably believed to be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm.

State laws governing background checks vary from state to state. In Washington, a background check is only required to buy a pistol, and only if the seller is a firearms dealer. Washington law also provides an exception to the background check requirement for certain sales of pistols from dealers. If the buyer has already been issued a concealed pistol license, then no further background check is required. Also, a firearms dealer can complete a sale if the sheriff or police chief fails to provide the results of a background check within five business days. That five day period can be extended if the buyer does not have a valid permanent Washington driver’s license or identification card, or has lived in Washington for less than ninety days.

Washington law allows Washington residents to buy rifles and shotguns in other states. And it allows residents of other states to buy rifles and shotguns in Washington. In both cases, the sale must comply with federal law. The sale must also be legal under the laws of both Washington and the other state.

Federal law also requires background checks on potential buyers of firearms. This federal requirement applies only when the seller is a firearms dealer. Unlike Washington law, the federal requirement applies to all types of firearms, not just pistols. Federal law does not require a background check if the buyer holds a concealed pistol license. Also, federal law allows a firearms dealer to complete a sale if the results of a background check are not returned within three business days.

The federal and state constitutions prohibit governments from confiscating private property, including firearms, without providing due process of law. In general, due process requires a lawful basis for taking the property, notice of the government’s action, and an opportunity to explain why property should not be forfeited. Court proceedings are examples of ways in which due process is provided. Washington law authorizes the forfeiture of firearms in a number of situations. Washington courts may order forfeiture of firearms found in the possession of people who cannot legally possess firearms or who have criminal proceedings pending. Courts may also order forfeiture of firearms that have been found concealed on a person who does not have a permit to carry a concealed pistol. Firearms used in the commission of certain crimes may also be forfeited. And firearms can be forfeited if found in the possession of a person arrested for a felony in which the firearm was used or displayed.

The Effect Of The Proposed Measure If Approved

This measure would prohibit government agencies from requiring background checks on the recipient of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.

This measure would also state that government agencies may not confiscate firearms from citizens without due process. [3]

Fiscal note

The fiscal impact statement reads as follows:[2]

Initiative 591 would have no direct impact on state and local revenues, costs, expenditures or indebtedness.

General Assumptions

  • The federal and state constitutions prohibit governments from confiscating private property, including firearms, without due process of law. Therefore, it is currently unlawful for any government agency to confiscate guns or other firearms from citizens without due process.
  • The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 (Brady Act), Public Law 103-159, is a required uniform national standard for a background check on the recipient of a firearm.
  • Current state law regarding a background check on the recipient of a firearm would remain in effect.
  • The effective date of the initiative is December 4, 2014.



I-591 was filed shortly before a competing ballot measure was. The measure, I-594, which is seeking to regulate firearms sales between private individuals, including implementing extensive background checks.[4]



Protect Our Gun Rights is leading the campaign in support of the initiative.[5]



  • Protect Our Gun Rights[5]
  • Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms[6]
  • Gun Owners Action League of Washington
  • Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association
  • Washington Arms Collectors
  • Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor Association
  • Hunters Heritage Council
  • Ferry County Tea Party


Supporters of I-594 are opposed to this initiative. Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility - the group sponsoring I-594 - accused the supporters of I-591 of "trying to muddy the waters with competing initiatives, saying, "The fastest path to victory is confusion. I think that indeed is the gun lobby's strategy."[7]

Additionally, in their endorsement of competing measure Initiative 594, The Seattle Times endorsed a "No" vote on Initiative 591, calling the initiative a "wholly inappropriate, unnecessary and potentially a reckless retreat."[8]


  • Kirkland City Council[9]

Media editorial positions


  • The Herald said,
I-591, which was hatched to counter I-594, is a rollback. Section 2 of I-591 would negate Washington laws that don't jibe with a uniform national standard. That could put the kibosh, for example, on searching the DSHS database for gun buyers who are seriously mentally ill. I-591 is a giant leap backwards.[3]

Herald, [10]

  • The Tri-City Herald said,
On the other end of the gun barrel is I-591, which is in direct conflict with I-594 and would loosen background check requirements.

This is a regressive move against an established system that works well. There is no need to weaken it. [3]

Tri-City Herald, [11]

  • The News Tribune said,
Initiatives 594 and 591 on the November ballot ask a simple question: Do you like background checks for firearms sales?

If you do, vote for I-594 and against I-591. That’s what we recommend. We can’t think of one good reason not to screen gun-seekers for criminal records and severe mental illnesses.[3]

News Tribune, [12]

  • The Olympian said,
The firearms industry has put forward the other ballot measure, Initiative 591, for no other reason than to confuse voters and pander to its extremist base of support. It represents a potentially dangerous rollback of existing Washington state law.

Voters should approve I-594, and vote no on I-591.[3]

Olympian, [13]

  • The Spokesman-Review said,
Initiative 591 would maintain the status quo, meaning the state could not go beyond federal law, which requires checks only on gun sales at licensed stores. Proponents tout this as “uniformity,” but they’d be against Congress passing a law to match Washington’s if I-594 were to pass.

If you’re confused as to why proponents don’t simply run a “No on I-594” campaign, well, that’s the point. A yes vote on both would probably nullify I-594. The last time there were two competing initiatives (related to medical malpractice) voters turned down both. That would be fine with I-591 backers.

Don’t be taken in. Vote yes on I-594 and no on I-591. It’s the only combination of votes that will expand background checks and help deter the sale of weapons to people who, by law, should not have them.[3]


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures
Washington Initiative 591 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Elway Poll
4/9/2014 - 4/13/2014
Elway Poll
10/6/2014 - 10/9/2014
AVERAGES 47% 38.5% 14.5% +/-4.5 500.5
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Washington

In order to qualify for the November 2014 ballot, supporters must submit a minimum of 246,372 valid signatures by January 3, 2014. According to Washington law, the number of signatures required to land a measure on the ballot must be equal to or greater than 8% of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the most recent previous election.[15]

Supporters submitted an estimated 340,000 signatures on November 21, 2013.[16]

Related measures

See also

Suggest a link

External links

Additional reading


  1. The Columbian, "Gun-rights activists take aim at 2014 ballot," June 20,2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Washington Secretary of State, "Online Voters' Guide 2014 General Election," accessed September 29, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Examiner.com, "Exclusive: Challenge filed to WAGR gun control ballot title," July 2, 2013]
  5. 5.0 5.1 Protect Our Gun Rights
  6. Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
  7. The Spokesman-Review, "Washington gun initiatives square off," July 16, 2013
  8. The Seattle Times, "Editorial: In competing gun measures — Yes, on I-594; No on I-591," July 15, 2014
  9. Kirkland Reporter, "Kirkland City Council adopts resolutions in favor of I-594; in opposition of I-591," October 14, 2014
  10. Herald, "Vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 3, 2014
  11. Tri-City Herald, "Our Voice:Herald recommends no on I-591 and I-594," October 8, 2014
  12. News Tribune, "Vote yes on I-594 - to help keep guns from criminals," October 8, 2014
  13. Olympian, "Save lives: vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 14, 2014
  14. Spokesman-Review Spokesman-Review, "Editorial: Expand checks on gun sales: Vote yes on 594, no on 591," October 16, 2014
  15. Kirotv.com, "Washington voters will be asked to approve stiffer gun controls," April 28, 2013
  16. The Seattle Times, "Opponents of gun background checks submit signatures for initiative," November 21, 2013