On Friday, July 27 Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified Initiative 1639—an act to increase safety by way of stricter minimum requirements and mandates for individuals to possess automatic rifles—for the November General Election. After stricter gun laws failed to make it through the Legislature this year, this could tighten gun regulations in Washington state. The three primary changes would be raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy a semi-automatic rifle, requiring more thorough background checks for those rifles, and implementing a strict requirement to how firearms will be stored.
Initiative 1639, titled by its sponsors as “Gun Violence Prevention,” is the first of three initiatives submitted this summer to complete the verification process for the General Election. Initiatives 1631 and 1634 will also undergo the process to ensure that each has at least 259,622 valid qualifying signatures to make the ballot, as is required by law.
I-1631 is referred to as the “Clean Air, Clean Energy Initiative” that seeks to “reduce pollution by investing in clean air, clean energy, clean water, healthy forests, and healthy communities by imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution.”
I-1634 would prevent local governments in Washington from taxing soft drinks and other sugary beverages, as Seattle does. Four of the largest soft drink manufacturers in the world have a vested interest exceeding a million dollars in this initiative but are claiming that they are trying to “protect hard-working families and neighborhood businesses from grocery taxes.”
The signatures of I-1639 themselves are subject to heavy debate. Those that oppose the initiative are outraged. Secretary Wyman said there were concerns regarding the format of petition signatures for I-1639 and whether they align with constitutional and statutory requirements. Due to this, the Office of Secretary of State examined a random sample of, “11,380 of the 378,085 signatures submitted by the sponsors. The office found that more than enough of the sampled signatures were valid to calculate that the initiative would meet Constitutional requirements to make the November ballot,” as a news release by the Secretary of State stated.
The signatures aside, those that oppose I-1639 are arguing that this strips 18-20-year-olds of a constitutional right. Furthermore, gunowners are worried that they will be held accountable if their firearm is used in a crime despite the precautions they take to safely secure and store it.
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility states, “Initiative 1639 will address many of the causes of recent tragedies by raising the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21; creating an enhanced background check system similar to what is required for handguns; requiring completion of a firearm safety training course; and creating standards for secure storage to prevent guns from falling into dangerous hands.”
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility is leading the charge, urging voters to pass the initiative in November. Their central tagline of “safe schools, safe communities” speaks for itself. Those who are promoting this initiative believe that stricter regulations are going to counter the seemingly exponential spike in horrific school shootings and public massacres.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) filed a lawsuit moments after Secretary Wyman confirmed I-1639 on the November ballot. A second lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court by Allan Gottlieb who founded the Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee to Bear Arms. The Gun Lobby claimed that the print was so small that those signing ballot petitions would not even be able to read the smaller print. “This challenge maintains that because the initiative petitions were incorrectly printed, there isn’t a valid signature on them,” said Gottlieb.
I-1639’s Campaign Manager Stephen Paolini is interested in saving lives. “…we’re ready to take action to make our state, our schools and our communities safer from the terror of gun violence,” said Paolini.
The Northshore School District holds safety and security as one of their primary pillars. Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid provided parents and community members with a Safety and Security Newsletter on February 23 of this year that detailed the steps of preparation for an Active Threat. She shared the tips of the National Association of School Psychologists when talking to students about potential gun violence.
In writer and director Bo Burnham’s new breakout coming-of-age film, Eighth Grade, there is a scene that depicts middle schoolers in the midst of an Active Shooter drill. The students, disengaged and fixated on their smart phones, are quicker to make jokes than to pay attention. A casual understanding of the potential of gun violence has become a standard in American education as if it were as commonplace as a fire drill. For some students it is something to shrug, understand the possibility of, but ultimately not really care about. There seems to be an echoing question that ricochets through the hallways. How has this become normal?