Opinion: More deaths in Seattle as Washington voters weigh dueling gun laws

Washington Community Mourns After School Shooting Kills One, Injures 4
A memorial sign for one of the victims of Friday’s school shooting in Marysville, Wash. Unrelated, on Monday night a man killed his daughter and granddaughter in Seattle before killing himself, a week before Washington voters consider two competing gun control measures.
(David Ryder / Getty Images)

Amid the tragedies, irony.

Monday night a Seattle man used a handgun to kill his daughter and granddaughter before shooting himself as his 10-year-old grandson fled the house, police said. Three days earlier and 35 miles away, a teenager arranged a lunch via text with five schoolmates then opened fire in the high school cafeteria before shooting himself. The gunman and two others at the table died.

So what’s on the Washington state ballot in next week’s election? Two ballot initiatives about gun control. Neither of the contradictory measures would have influenced the school shooting, and details remain unclear about the Monday slayings-suicide. It’s also unclear whether the killings will have much influence on the voting, but we can hope. Especially given Washington’s history of mass shootings. But then, some thought the Newtown, Conn., massacre would change things too, but we’re still a nation of nearly 320 million people who own some 300 million guns.

The two measures carve out opposite views of gun control. Initiative 594, backed by gun-control advocates, would draw Washington state even with California and Oregon and several other states in requiring a background check for all private sales of gun, including those arranged online or via gun shows (federal law requires background checks only on sales through licensed gun dealers). Initiative 591, backed by gun-rights groups, would bar Washington from enacting any background checks that that exceed federal restrictions, a much looser standard.


Millions of dollars have been spent on the campaigns, including more than $2 million from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety group. Interestingly, the National Rifle Assn. is working against 594 but staying away from 591 over, according to one assessment, a dispute about wording, and doctrine.

The 594 measure is a reasonable step to close a loophole and bring better scrutiny to those who are buying guns, the kind of common-sense compromise that still raises visceral opposition from hard-line gun-lovers. The gun-rights folks have trotted out the usual argument that requiring background checks won’t keep criminals from getting guns, an argument that is akin to questioning laws against robbing banks, since those who would rob will rob anyway. 

State polling two weeks ago showed the pro-licensing measure was doing well, but the one to scale back the laws to the federal minimum was fading.

As I said, it’s unclear whether these fresh killings will have any effect on the ballot box. But at some point the national mood against this madness has to turn. Let’s hope Washington voters make that move Tuesday.   


Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle.

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