Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 22, 2014

What the heck is I-594 and I-591?

This November, Washington State has an opportunity to speak out about how we handle guns. There are two initiatives on the ballot dealing with gun sales and gun safety – here at the Political Junkie we will be taking a close look at both initiatives over the next week or so.

Initiative 594

The Basics: Sometimes called the “Universal Background Check” effort, this initiative would require a background check when selling a gun to another person, including online sales and at gun shows. This includes filing the proper paperwork, going through a licensed dealer and (obviously) not selling the firearm if they are ineligible to have one. Failure to do so will result in a Class C felony.



Exemptions: The initiative also includes a long list of exemptions where a background check is not required. This includes:

  • a gift between family members (including inheritance)
  • antique firearms
  • anything involving a law enforcement officer transferring a weapon as part of their duties
  • lending a firearm in life and death situations for self-defense
  • borrowing a friend’s firearm at a shooting range or gun competition
  • between spouses or domestic partners
  • while legally hunting

Setting aside those situations, a background check would be required for the sale or transfer of a firearm if this initiative passes.

Who: The organization supporting this initiative is the “Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility” and it has been endorsed by a variety of healthcare, and social action groups (including the Washington League of Women Voters and WA National Association of Mental Illness). It is financially supported by Bill and Melinda Gates, Paul Allen, and Steve Balmer.

 Initiative 591

The Basics: This initiative, aimed at protecting “Gun Rights”, is an effort to forbid the government’s ability to regulate firearms. It would do two things:

  • Make it illegal for law enforcement to confiscate a firearm without due process



  • Forbid any government agency from requiring a background check unless it is required by federal law

Yes, for those following along at home, this initiative would cancel out Initiative 594 if it passes. Or at least give the Supreme Court something to consider rather than whether or not to arrest the entire state legislature.

Exemptions: This initiative does not have any exemptions, just one last section that says if one part of it is struck down, the rest is still valid.

Who: Aside from the usual collection of gun enthusiast organizations, this bill is also supported by the Washington Council of Police and Sheriff’s which includes Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s association and the Bellingham Police Guild. It is financially supported by the Washington Arms Collectors and 2nd amendment groups.

Later this week, we will take a closer look at the rhetoric used by both sides of this debate.



  1. Riley –

    Have you heard the analysis that if both of these initiatives pass, gun sales will be banned in WA? It goes that if people are required to get background checks, but are forbidden from doing so, they can’t buy or sell guns.


    • Then it would go to the state Supreme Court, which would see that as a violation of the 2nd amendment and probably strike down language from both initiatives.

  2. So who are the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs, the Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s association and the Bellingham Police Guild? Are they the real and official representatives of our law enforcement? What’s their thinking?

    • They are indeed the real official representatives of our law enforcement – they are the union organizations and I will be calling the local ones to double check their endorsement.

  3. We don’t need either Initiative, as we have laws on the books that cover most situations. Enforce those laws (and NOT like Obama enforces our immigration laws) [sarc]. I can’t go to a gun show and purchase a handgun without a current WA Concealed Carry License or a background check. Any “legitimate” gun show patrols the parking lot to prevent people from selling out of their trunks.

    We don’t need to help the CRIMINALS anymore than we already have.

  4. Wait just a dang minute! The first bullet point on I-591 says it would “Make it illegal for law enforcement to confiscate a firearm without due process.” But yet the “Washington Council of Police and Sheriff’s which includes Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s association and the Bellingham Police Guild” is in favor of this measure. Based on news stories I read, the first thing the police and county sheriff deputies do now is confiscate all the guns in the house when they make an arrest. Of course this is not due process. It seems I-591 would change this.

    Question: Why would law enforcement voluntarily support limiting their power? This goes against the current trend of arming themselves to the teeth with leftover military weapons and materiel. Is there perhaps a misrepresentation here?

  5. I think this deserves a deeper Bellingham and Whatcom County conversation between the public and our law enforcement officials. I”ll be happy to hear what Riley learns when he calls! At a recent City Council meeting, I spoke in support of the latest proposal by our Chief of Police for use of a Department of Justice grant for flak jackets. On the other hand, I also expressed my concern about excessive militarization of policing and I distributed copies of this piece from New Scientist:…/dn26081-crowdcontrol… It seems to me that there are many instances in which the appropriate thing for the police to do is to talk a distraught person down. I could imagine cases in which police a firm “Put that Gun Down” might elicit compliance. At which point, I would like the police to have the option of collecting said gun and putting it under their control. I wouldn’t want the police sued later for doing so. I want our police to be protected, but I certainly do not want each and every confrontation to end up as a shootout. So, I want to know, why is the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs supporting I-591?

  6. NEWS FLASH: a Public Disclosure Commission Report showed a $1,000,000 Donation from Tom Steyer to his NEXT GEN PAC here in Washington state. Expectations are that it will be used to buy the Senate right here in Whatcom County.

  7. And I found out that JZ Knight ( has donated $50,000 to the Thurston County Democratic Central Committee,
    Now that is interesting stuff ;D

  8. “borrowing a friend’s firearm at a shooting range…”

    Not an exemption in the proposed law, unless your friend keeps their firearm at that range at all times. Compare the two exemptions (shooting range and organized competition):
    (ii)if the temporary transfer occurs, and the firearm is kept at all times, at an established shooting range
    (iii) if the temporary transfer occurs and the transferee’s possession of the firearm is exclusively at a lawful organized competition

    The first requires the firearm is always kept at the range, the second requires the person you transfer the firearm to gives it back before leaving the competition. The same “length of time transfer occurs” language is used for (iv) and (v) as well, so it seems intentional that (ii) uses different language.

  9. It’s worth a visit to the PDC website to see the enormous contributions to the “WA ALLIANCE FOR GUN RESPONSIBILITY”

  10. Yes well 594 passed. How? MONEY. Many voters voted no on both which amplified the remaining yes votes giving the impression of big majority win, not so.

    594 used a carpet-advertizing campaign with significant spin. There was a number of specifics noted within the Initiative of which was not and could not be represented in the ballot lead. Therein there was misrepresentation and misleading. Consider also the difference in spending in the two camps was at least 8 to 1. Is this illegal, I don’t know, but if not it should be. The 594 camp is already back at the State Capital pushing to increase gun law even more, the next day!

    The law in WA State works well as is. Background checks, etc, a good balance was struck here. The reason 594 came up is the billionaires and their legal counsel recognized WA was a perfect place for an initial attack due to its legal framework for law creation.

    If we’d passed 591 alone the result is nothing would change, all law would be the same.

    Beware, the wealthy have a strategy and they are coming to your town. And remember, the topic can be anything they want for you.

    Petition against 594, repeal 594, swing the pendulum to the right, it’s the only way to protect ourselves from the over-zealous liberal far left. They went too far!

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