Posted: 6:24 p.m. Sunday, April 28, 2013

Washington voters will be asked to approve stiffer gun controls

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By Chris Legeros

OLYMPIA, Wash. —

State lawmakers couldn't get it done this session, but Washington voters will be asked directly whether universal background checks should be required for everyone who buys a gun in this state.

A source told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News that on Monday, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility will launch a statewide initiative campaign to put the question on the ballot.

It's hoping to raise millions of dollars for the campaign at a May fundraiser, and gather 300,000 signatures.

Right now, if you buy a handgun from a licensed dealer, you will be checked for a criminal history.

But the Alliance points out that 40 percent of all gun transfers take place between private sellers who are not required to conduct checks.

Tony Tate of Seattle thought it is a good idea to disqualify people who shouldn't have firearms including criminals and the mentally ill.

"After the tragedies that have happened back east, I think we're ready for it," said Antone Frandsen of Seattle.

A gun shop owner told KIRO 7 he doesn't think expanded checks are necessary.

A lobbyist for the National Rifle Association has said his group would likely oppose an initiative for expanded checks.

The NRA feels the checks would largely affect law-abiding citizens instead of criminals and the mentally ill.

Ralph Fascitelli of Washington Cease Fire gave KIRO 7 additional information Sunday night on the state initiative for expanded background checks. His organization is supporting Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which has taken the lead on this.     

Fascitelli said the state initiative campaign will be directed at state lawmakers first.  If the required signatures are collected, it will be presented to state lawmakers during the session of 2014. They will have the option of voting it up or down. 

If lawmakers vote it down, then it will go to a vote of the people in November of 2014.  

Fascitelli said the lawmakers will have the option of changing the initiative as it is written. And there is some concern that there will be an effort to "water it down."  For example, previous background check legislation has included exemptions for thousands of gun owners who already hold concealed weapons permits.   

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