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:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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November 4
Initiative 594 Approveda
Initiative 591 Defeatedd
Advisory Vote No. 8 Defeatedd
Advisory Vote No. 9 Defeatedd
Initiative 1351 Approveda
EndorsementsFull text
Local measures
The Washington Gun Rights Measure, Initiative 591 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in the state of Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature, where it was defeated. Had it been approved by voters, the measure would have prevented the government from confiscating firearms without due process and implementing background checks unless a federal standard is established.[1]

Election results

Below are the official, certified election results:

Washington Initiative 591
Defeatedd No1,147,96655.27%
Yes 929,220 44.73%

Election results via: Washington Secretary of State

Text of measure

Ballot title

The certified ballot title read 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 read 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 was approved at the polls, sought to regulate firearms sales between private individuals, including implementing extensive background checks.[4]

Marysville school shooting

Less than two weeks before the election, on October 24, 2014, a student opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, leaving five dead (including the shooter) and one injured. Within hours of the shooting, Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, one of the top funders for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which supported I-594, posted a link to the story about the shooting with the following caption: “We need more school shootings!!! Vote yes on Initiative 591.” In response, Pedro Celis, Republican candidate in the first Congressional District released a statement that said: "Let us not move to politicize this tragedy with knee-jerk reactions. Let us focus on healing – physically for the victims, mentally for those in the school, emotionally for all those involved, and spiritually for this nation."[5]



Protect Our Gun Rights led the campaign in support of the initiative.[6]



  • Protect Our Gun Rights[6]
  • Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms[7]
  • Ferry County Tea Party

The following organizations also supported the measure:[8]

  • Evergreen Sportsmen’s Club
  • Firearm Collectors and Shooters Association
  • Firearms Policy Coalition
  • Gun Owners Action League of Washington
  • Hunters Heritage Council
  • Second Amendment Sisters
  • Washington Arms Collectors
  • Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS)
  • Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA)
  • Washington State Republican Party
  • Washington State Rifle and Pistol Association
  • WaGuns.org


The following individuals supported the measure:[9]

  • Alan Gottlieb
  • Anette Wachter
  • Bill Burris, Spokesman, Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association
  • Bill Starks
  • Boyd Kneeland
  • Charles Heller, Former Executive Director, Jews For The Preservation Of Firearms Ownership
  • Commissioner Jim McEntire, Clallam County, (R)
  • Dave Workman
  • David Carnahan
  • Eric Reed, Founder, Gun Rights Across America
  • Jack Smith
  • James Croisier
  • Jim Beal
  • Jim Weaver
  • Joe Dawson, President, Washington State Retired Deputy Sheriffs & Police Officers Association (WSRDSPOA)
  • Joe Fuiten, Pastor, Pastors Picks
  • Joe Waldron
  • John Fischer
  • John Rodabaugh
  • Julianne Versnel
  • Julie Zielke
  • Kirby Wilbur
  • Lance Barton
  • Leland Bull
  • Mark Pidgeon
  • Mayor Ken Estes
  • Miko Tempski
  • Morris Parrish, Police Officer, Gang Investigations
  • Nick Sherwood
  • Nick Smith
  • Phil Shave, Retired Chief, Law Enforcement State Parks
  • Phil Watson
  • Ray Carter
  • Representative Brandon Vick (R)
  • Representative Brian Blake (D)
  • Representative Chad Magendanz (R)
  • Representative Christopher Hurst (D)
  • Representative Dick Muri (R)
  • Representative Graham Hunt (R)
  • Representative Hans Zeiger (R)
  • Representative J.T. Wilcox (R)
  • Representative Paul Harris (R)
  • Richard Ripley
  • Rick Verzal
  • Robin Ball
  • Senator Pam Roach (R)
  • Senator Tim Sheldon (D)
  • Sheriff Richard Lathim, Franklin County
  • Sheriff Ozzie Knevovich, Spokane County
  • Sheriff Alan Botzheim, Pend Orielle County
  • Sheriff Dave Brown, Skamania County
  • Sheriff Wade Magers, Lincoln County
  • Sheriff John Snaza, Thurston County
  • Sheriff Mark Howie, Wahkiakum County
  • Stephen Pidgeon
  • Thomas McKiddie


Below are the arguments in support of I-591 that were featured in the state's official voter guide. The arguments were prepared by Alan Gottlieb, Chair, Protect Our Gun Rights Coalition; Bill Burris, Spokesman, Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association; Brian Blake, State Representative, Democrat, six term veteran legislator; John Rodabaugh, President, Washington Arms Collectors; Julianne Versnel, Publisher, Second Amendment Foundation’s Woman & Guns Magazine; Phil Shave, Retired Chief, Law Enforcement State Parks.[10]

Protect your rights, vote yes on 591

Initiative 591 protects against illegal search and seizure, preventing politicians and bureaucrats driven by an anti-rights agenda from depriving citizens of their property without due process.

The gun prohibition lobby responsible for draconian anti-civil rights and self-defense laws in New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, is now targeting Washington citizens, using money and resources from out of state.

No gun confiscation without due process

We saw firearms confiscated without due process in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Some people never got their property back. We are seeing confiscation of firearms in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and California.

This affects you if you own a gun, or not

In Washington State, we have already seen legislation proposed to allow police to enter your home and search your bedroom for lawfully owned firearms without a warrant or court order. Government agencies are collecting record amounts of your personal data, raising grave privacy concerns.

591 does not prevent background checks

591 protects background check uniformity and prevents unwarranted intrusion by the state into temporary firearm loans to friends or in-laws. It stops the state from creating a universal gun registry that could enable future confiscation. Maintaining balance between privacy rights and public safety is what 591 is about. It is supported by a diverse bipartisan coalition of law enforcement professionals, collectors, competitors, and sportsmen and women who believe that nobody’s privacy should be for sale to the gun prohibition lobby.

Rebuttal of Argument Against

The most telling thing is what opponents don’t rebut. They ignore the fact that 591 stops firearms confiscation without due process of law. Why? Because due process led to a unanimous court reversal of the Seattle gun ban they supported! Instead, they falsely claim that 591 weakens current background checks. But they can’t cite an example because there isn’t one. We need a strong uniform national standard background check law because criminals cross state lines.[3]

—Alan Gottlieb, Bill Burris, Brian Blake, John Rodabaugh, Julianne Versnel and Phil Shave

Campaign contributions

Supporters of I-591 raised over $1.2 million by the end of the campaign. This data was obtained from the Public Disclosure Commission and was current as of December 5, 2014. The following committee registered in support of I-591:

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Protect Our Gun Rights $1,268,760 $1,236,981
Total $1,268,760 $1,236,981
Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of December 5, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $1,268,760
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $0

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
Washington Arms Collectors $503,075
Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms $305,000
Gun Owners Action League $120,000


Supporters of I-594 were opposed to this initiative. Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility - the group that sponsored I-594 - accused the supporters of I-591 of trying to obscure the issue with competing initiatives, saying, "The fastest path to victory is confusion. I think that indeed is the gun lobby's strategy."[11]

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."[12]


  • Kirkland City Council[13]


Below are the arguments in opposition to I-591 in the state's official voter guide. The arguments were prepared by Cheryl Stumbo, Jewish Federation Shooting Survivor; Jolaine Marr, Domestic Violence Survivor; Faith Ireland, retired State Supreme Court Justice; Robert Brauer, Lifetime Member of NRA, Gun Owner; Kim Abel, President, League of Women Voters of Washington; Becky Roe, former prosecutor, past Washington Association of Justice President.[10]

Initiative 591 will make it easier for guns to fall into the wrong hands by weakening our criminal background check system on gun sales.

No on 591: We Need Stronger, Not Weaker, Criminal Background Checks on Gun Sales

591 would roll back Washington's existing - and already inadequate - background check laws to conform to weak federal standards. 591 is a dangerous step backward. It locks in loopholes that allow criminals, domestic abusers and other dangerous individuals to buy guns without a criminal background check. Washington voters have a choice this election: close loopholes that allow criminals and people with severe mental illnesses to buy guns without criminal background checks, or roll back standards.

No on 591: Trust Washington Voters, Not Congress

591 ties the hands of Washington voters and locks us into a federal standard. Washington voters should not hand over our ability to protect our lives and property to a Congress who has failed to act.

No on 591: Protect Safety, Not Criminals

No one wants to see criminals and other dangerous people continue to have easy access to firearms. Criminal background checks work. Since its inception, the background check system has blocked 2.2 million gun sales to prohibited people. We should be strengthening the system, but 591 does the opposite. It makes it easier for dangerous individuals to get guns.

This is why a broad coalition of law enforcement, gun violence survivors, domestic violence survivors and faith leaders encourage you to vote No on Initiative 591.

Rebuttal of Argument For

Current federal background check laws are weaker than Washington state standards. 591 would roll back our laws and tie the hands of voters - and law enforcement - giving criminals easy access to guns. Background checks work. States that have weakened background checks standards have seen an increase in murder rates and gun violence overall. Let’s close loopholes and make it harder for criminals to access guns. Vote No on 591.[3]

—Cheryl Stumbo, Jolaine Marr, Faith Ireland, Robert Brauer, Kim Abel and Becky Roe

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Washington ballot measures, 2014


  • 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]


  • 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[15]

  • 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[16]

  • 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]


  • 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]

Spokesman-Review [18]

  • The Skanner said,
We believe in gun control, even the most modest measures can save lives. Because this measure was crafted to prevent realistic gun control measures, we vote NO.[3]


  • The Yakima Herald said,
Initiative 594 has technical problems in its wording and unintended consequences, and Initiative 591 is fundamentally the wrong approach. For those reasons, the Yakima Herald-Republic editorial board urges a no vote on both Initiative 594 and Initiative 591...Initiative 594 goes too far in one direction, and Initiative 591 heads down a different and a totally misguided path. Current state law is preferable to either of these choices, which makes voting no on both the right choice.[3]

Yakima Herald[20]

  • The Daily News said,
We’re also opposed to Initiative 591, a two-paragraph measure (vs. I-594’s 18 pages) that prohibits authorities from confiscating a firearm without due process and mandates that Washington’s laws on gun ownership be no more restrictive than federal laws.

Rep. Blake, a 591 supporter, says the anti-confiscation language is needed due to counter “over-reach” by police and National Guardsmen, as was seen in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. We’ll note that constitutional provisions against the arbitrary seizure of weapons already exist and that they were routinely ignored in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane. Putting another redundant law on the books wouldn’t solve this problem.

We’re also comfortable with Washington’s current level of gun controls and the idea that they were set and approved by Washingtonians. We wouldn’t want to see them loosened or tightened by a vote in Congress.[3]

Daily News[21]

  • The Bellingham Herald said,
As for I-591, it is completely unnecessary and goes too far the other way.[3]

Bellingham Herald[22]


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
KCTS-9 Washington Poll
10/17/2014 - 10/24/2014
AVERAGES 46.47% 40.13% 12.6% +/-4.33 534.33
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 were required to 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 had to be equal to or greater than 8 percent of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the most recent previous election.[23]

Supporters submitted an estimated 340,000 signatures on November 21, 2013.[24]

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. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 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. KUOW.org, "Too Soon? Nick Hanauer Posts Sarcastically, ‘We Need More School Shootings!!!’," October 24, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Protect Our Gun Rights website, accessed October 31, 2014
  7. Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms website, accessed October 31, 2014
  8. Yes on 591, "Endorsements," accessed October 25, 2014
  9. Yes on 591, "Endorsements," accessed October 25, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 Washington Secretary of State, "Voters' Guide 2014 General Election," accessed October 25, 2014
  11. The Spokesman-Review, "Washington gun initiatives square off," July 16, 2013
  12. The Seattle Times, "Editorial: In competing gun measures — Yes, on I-594; No on I-591," July 15, 2014
  13. Kirkland Reporter, "Kirkland City Council adopts resolutions in favor of I-594; in opposition of I-591," October 14, 2014
  14. Herald, "Vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 3, 2014
  15. Tri-City Herald, "Our Voice:Herald recommends no on I-591 and I-594," October 8, 2014
  16. News Tribune, "Vote yes on I-594 - to help keep guns from criminals," October 8, 2014
  17. Olympian, "Save lives: vote yes on I-594, no on I-591," October 14, 2014
  18. Spokesman-Review, "Editorial: Expand checks on gun sales: Vote yes on 594, no on 591," October 16, 2014
  19. Skanner, "The Skanner News Elections Endorsements: Support These Measures on the Nov. 4 Ballot," October 16, 2014
  20. Yakima Herald, "Say no to both gun-related ballot measures," October 16, 2014
  21. Daily News, "Just say 'No' to Washington gun initiatives," October 22, 2014
  22. Bellingham Herald, "Our Voice: Herald recommends no on I-591 and I-594," October 8, 2014
  23. Kirotv.com, "Washington voters will be asked to approve stiffer gun controls," April 28, 2013
  24. The Seattle Times, "Opponents of gun background checks submit signatures for initiative," November 21, 2013