OLYMPIA, Wash. — After struggling to sway both state and federal lawmakers, proponents of expanding background checks for gun sales are now exploring whether they will have more success by taking the issue directly to voters.
While advocates generally prefer that new gun laws be passed through the legislative process, especially at the national level, they are also concerned about how much sway the National Rifle Association has with lawmakers. Washington Rep. Jamie Pedersen, a Democrat who had sponsored unsuccessful legislation on background checks at the state level, said a winning ballot initiative would make a statement with broad implications.
“It’s more powerful if the voters do it — as opposed to our doing it,” Pedersen said.
Today, proponents of universal background checks in Washington will announce their plan to launch a statewide initiative campaign that would require the collection of about 300,000 signatures, according to a person involved in the initiative planning.
Ballot measures may be an option elsewhere, too. Hildy Saizow, president of Arizonans for Gun Safety, said an initiative is one of the things the group will be considering as it reconsiders strategies.
While advocates have had recent success on background checks in places like Connecticut and Colorado, they’ve been thwarted in some other states and in Congress.