OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) — Two
incompatible ballot measures on background checks for gun buyers in
Washington state enjoy majority support in a poll released on Tuesday,
but the one advancing stricter gun controls is more popular.
The competing measures, both slated to be on the ballot in
November in the Pacific Northwest state, are the only firearm
background check initiatives up for a vote this year in the United
They are the latest touchstones in a longstanding fight over
background checks on gun buyers. The debate hinges on whether their
expansion constitutes a common-sense approach to keeping guns away
from criminals and the mentally unstable or a first step in broader
restrictions on gun ownership.
Initiative 594 would require all firearm sales, including those at
gun shows and conducted online, to be predicated on a background
check of the buyer. Initiative 591, however, would disallow
background checks for gun purchases unless explicitly required by
the federal government.
Federal law exempts some gun sales from background checks, allowing
for what opponents have dubbed the gun-show loophole because sales
in that setting are exempted.
The results on the Washington state gun measures from the Elway
Poll, which is independent of the two campaigns, shows Initiative
594 enjoying 72 percent support, while the other measure has 55
percent in favor. The poll's margin of error is 4.5 percentage
points, and 504 registered voters participated.
When asked in a follow-up question whether background checks should
be expanded or unchanged, 62 percent of respondents said they
favored more restrictions.
Stuart Elway, whose firm conducted the poll, said gun-control
advocates need to clarify the difference between the measures while
their foes would benefit from muddied waters.
"The task for proponents of the status quo is to cultivate the
confusion, hope that both measures pass, then get them both
overturned in court after the election," Elway said in a statement.
The pro-background checks campaign has raised more than $1.6
million, including $50,000 from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and
his wife, Melinda, according to campaign finance filings. The
anti-background check campaign has taken in just under half that
Colorado, which passed universal background checks into law last
year, and New York are among a handful of states with such
requirements in place.
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Mohammad Zargham)