All about I-1639

You may have noticed signature collectors posted in many public places asking for your support for the new public safety initiative, "SAFE SCHOOLS SAFE COMMUNITIES".

Often, professional signature gatherers give misleading information about the product they are pushing. They get paid per signature, and they are interested in making money, not making sure you understand fully what is it you are signing.

On this page you will find information which will hopefully help you make an informed decision.

Initiative summary

You can find the whole text of it here: https://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/finaltext_1531.pdf

The initiative creates a definition of an "assault rifle" as follows:

"Semiautomatic assault rifle" means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.

"Semiautomatic assault rifle" does not include antique firearms, any firearm that has been made permanently inoperable, or any firearm that is manually operated by bolt, pump, lever, or slide action.

It then creates a number of changes to ownership and acquisition of such rifles, including:

What are the problems with this initiative?

It's a lie.

Here is how a semiautomatic rifle is defined in US law:

18 U.S. Code § 921 - Definitions

(28) The term “semiautomatic rifle” means any repeating rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/921

Here is how I-1639 defines "semiautomatic assault rifle":

"Semiautomatic assault rifle" means any rifle which utilizes a portion of the energy of a firing cartridge to extract the fired cartridge case and chamber the next round, and which requires a separate pull of the trigger to fire each cartridge.

https://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/finaltext_1531.pdf

Do you see what's happened? They took the existing legal definition of a semiautomatic rifle and renamed it a "semiautomatic assault rifle". So now every semiautomatic rifle is an "assault rifle".

The rifle doesn't need to be an AR-15. It doesn't need to look like an AR-15. It doesn't need to be "high powered", or "military", or even "military-looking". It doesn't even need to have a removable magazine. Just the fact that it is a semiautomatic makes it an "assault rifle".

For example, this Marlin 60 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlin_Model_60) would be styled an assault rifle under this initiative.

This rifle uses a tubular magazine which is not removable. It uses 22LR ammunition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.22_Long_Rifle) which is primarily used for very small game such as squirrels and rabbits. This is how 22LR round looks next to ammunition commonly used in an AR-15:

Or this SA-22 rifle from Browning which has been in production for more than 100 years:

It also doesn't have a removable magazine, and it also uses 22LR ammunition.

Of course, not all semiautomatic hunting rifles are using low power ammunition, or don't have detachable magazines. This Browning BAR Mark III (http://www.browning.com/products/firearms/rifles/bar/current-production/bar-mark-3.html) uses a high powered hunting cartridge and a detachable magazine.

Yet of course it also has nothing to do with either military or assaults.

These are not the only examples. Ruger 10/22 (https://ruger.com/products/1022/overview.html?r=y), Savage 64 (https://www.savagearms.com/firearms/model/64FXP) and many, many other classic American hunting rifles would get the "assault" stigma under this initiative.

What is the reason they put "assault" in the definition? Obviously, to scare people into voting for the initiative. Question is, do we want to vote on a law based on the lie?

It is based on a lie

The deceptive definition is not the only part of the initiative that is dishonest. The very premise of it is also a lie.

Gun violence is far too common in Washington and the United States. In particular, shootings involving the use of semiautomatic assault rifles have resulted in hundreds of lives lost, devastating injuries, and lasting psychological impacts on survivors, their families, and communities.

This statement is absolutely not backed by data. Here are the actual numbers of people killed by rifles in Washington in the last 10 years. These numbers include all rifles, not just semiautomatic ones.

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Murders by rifles 2 16 4 1 4 0 6 3 11
Pct of total murders 1% 9% 2.6% 0.6% 2% 0% 3.5% 1.4% 5.6%

(Data from FBI: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s)

Keep in mind that it is ALL rifles, semiautomatic and otherwise.

To put this number in perspective 4.7 people killed by rifles in the state of Washington on average over the last 10 years is less than the death toll from stings and bites (6 in 2015), 4 times less than the number of people stabbed to death or drowned in boating accidents (20 and 18 respectively in 2015).

At 0.06 per 100000 residents, it is 170 times lower than the lowest of the 10 leading causes of death for Washingtonians, which is flu and pneumonia (https://www.doh.wa.gov/DataandStatisticalReports/HealthStatistics/Death/DeathTablesbyTopic). You are 170 times more likely to die from flu than be killed by a rifle. Age adjusted.

Even in mass shooting events (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/) handguns are present more often than rifles, and there is an even breakdown in casualties whether a rifle was present or not.

Creating restrictions on something that represents a tiny fraction of homicides is not going to affect homicide rates in any measurable way.

It is draconian

The restrictions that I-1639 puts on semiautomatic firearms vastly exceed current regulations on pistols.

It denies a large number of people access to an important class of firearms without presenting any public benefit.

It is regressive

This initiative hits poor people the hardest. The least expensive adult-sized rifle available on the market today - Savage 64F - happens to be semi-automatic. It costs only $130 at Cabelas, the state's biggest firearms retailer (https://www.cabelas.com/product/SAVAGE-MODEL-F-RIMFIRE-RIFLE/2287051.uts). Many other inexpensive entry-level rifles are also semi-automatic and sell in the same price range.

This initiative imposes a $25 fee plus the cost of training. A similar class at Cabelas costs $85 (https://mylegalheat.com/lacey-wa-concealed-carry-permit-class-at-cabela-s.html).

This almost doubles the cost of an entry-level rimfire rifle. A popular and inexpensive way to introduce one's children to shooting sports will be out of reach for poor people if this initiative becomes the law.

It is hypocritical

You have probably heard the expression "even if it saves one life, it is worth it".

The fact is, we can save many lives by banning alcohol. For example, drunk drivers kill 200 children under 15 every year (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html). Experts estimate that as many as 1-5% of all children are born with alcohol-related birth defects (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/data.html).

Yet the same people who clamor for restricting firearms would not support placing further restrictions on their own drinks - even though that would save many more lives.

It is a billionaires' initiative, not peoples'

As is the case with a lot of anti-gun legislation in Washington, it is pushed by an outfit called Alliance for Gun Responsibility. This organization administers a complex web of anti-gun funds, both for individual initiatives as well as PACs.

In 2017 a representative budget for this organization's PAC ("victory fund") looked thusly (https://www.pdc.wa.gov/reports/contributions_download?filer_id=WASHAV%20101&election_year=2017):

As you can see, their funding comes from an out-of-state anti-gun groups, one local billionaire, one local toy store owner, a NYC investor, and surprisingly few regular Washington State citizens.

Similarly, here is the budget for I-1639 itself (https://www.pdc.wa.gov/browse/campaign-explorer/committee?filer_id=SAFESS%20194&election_year=2018):

As you can see, out of $2.3m cash that the initiative has, $2m were contributed by local billionaires, and 99.4% of the money are coming from just ten local CEOs, Presidents, Founders and the like.

The signature gatherers you see in the street are not volunteers. They are paid professional signature gatherers hired with this money, paid around $5 per signature.

Without Allen and Hanauer, this initiative would have zero chance gathring the required 260000 signatures in just one month. This is not a "people's initiative". This is a handful of rich people buying legislation.

Incidentally, the primary sponsor of this legislation - Paul Allen - in addition to fielding a detachment of well-armed bodyguards - is an owner of a large collection of fully functional tanks and military aircraft (https://www.geekwire.com/2017/paul-allen-flying-heritage-combat-armor-museum/). Apparently, it is OK to own a tank if you are a billionaire, but not OK to own a 10/22 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruger_10/22) if you are a 20 year old college student.


No corporation, lobby, or political action committee had any part in the creation or funding of this educational project. It is solely the work of an individual.