After pouring millions of dollars into the effort, Moms Demand Action is claiming victory Wednesday as Washington State voters approved a ballot initiative, I-594, on election day that would expand background checks to cover private firearm transfers and sales made over the Internet and at gun shows.
I-594 has some notable background check exceptions, which include gifts between immediate family members, the transfer of antiques and relics, temporary transfers for self-defense and loans for lawful hunting or sporting activities. Not included under the exceptions are sales or permanent transfers between neighbors, friends and extended family.
“When it comes to guns, the only Washington that mattered this election was Washington state, and the victory for I-594, the background check ballot initiative there, proved the polls right — when Americans vote on public safety measures to prevent gun violence, gun safety wins,” said John Feinblatt, a former advisor for Michael Bloomberg and the president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Bloomberg’s group spent about $4 million in Washington State to campaign for I-594, the only background check initiative up for a vote this elections cycle. The group was aided by donations from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, who cut a check for $1 million, and former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer, who also gave $1 million to the cause.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, who run the pro-gun control organization Americans for Responsible Solutions also spent $500,000 in support of I-594.
“It’s no surprise that the people of the Evergreen State did the responsible thing: they stood up to the corporate gun lobby and stood up for a commonsense law that will make their communities safer,” Giffords said in a statement on Tuesday. “Tonight, Washington voters showed that when Americans are given the chance to vote to close the loopholes that let guns fall into the wrong hands, common sense wins.”
“This victory for responsibility in Washington State sends a clear message to the other Washington that if Congress is not ready to act to reduce gun violence, voters in states around the country can and will take the matter into their own hands,” Giffords added.
Meanwhile, a competing initiative, I-591, which would have mandated that the state’s background check standard not be any tougher than the current federal standard (under federal law, private transfers do not require FFL- facilitated background checks, though it is illegal for one to knowingly sell a firearm to a prohibited person, i.e. a felon, mental defective or minor) failed to pass, with 54 percent of the voters rejecting it according to early ballot returns.