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Court Decision Throws Gun Safety Initiative Off Washington Ballot

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
This Nov. 7, 2017, file photo shows dozens of semi-automatic rifles on a wall in a gun shop in Lynnwood, Wash.

Backers of a Washington gun safety initiative are fighting to keep it on the November ballot after a court ruling invalidated more than 300,000 signatures on a petition Friday.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon ruled the petition wasn't clear enough because it lacked underlines and strikethroughs showing how existing law would be changed. 

Initiative 1639 would raise the legal age for buying a semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21 and impose new background check and safety training requirements on gun buyers. 

The Alliance for Gun Responsibility, which is campaigning for the initiative, appealed Friday's ruling to the state Supreme Court. 

"Today’s decision tossed out the signatures of more than 378,000 voters, and undermined the rights of the citizens of this state in favor of the interests of the gun lobby," Renee Hopkins, the group's chief executive, said in a news release. "It’s not right, and we will continue to fight."

A Bellevue-based group called the Second Amendment Foundation sued to stop the initiative. The National Rifle Association filed a separate lawsuit.

Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, said in a news release that he agreed with Friday's decision and he hoped the higher court would uphold it. 

"The initiative process has no place for deceit and deception,” Gottlieb said. “The so-called Alliance for Gun Responsibility acted totally irresponsible in circulating this initiative to the voters and it not only cost them millions of wasted dollars but their credibility as well."
Secretary of State Kim Wyman's office asked the state Supreme Court to rule by Aug. 31 so ballots can be printed in time to reach overseas voters. 

Will James reports and produces special projects, including podcasts and series, for KNKX. He created and hosted the Outsiders podcast, chronicling homelessness in Olympia for more than a year, in partnership with The Seattle Times.
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