Washington State Voters Set To Approve Universal Background Checks For Gun Purchases
Two gun control initiatives will be on the ballot for voters in Washington State, but its the one that would expand background checks that looks likely to win:
Do you want expanded background checks for gun purchases?
Do you not want expanded background checks for gun purchases?
Those two competing questions will be on the ballot in Washington on Nov. 4. But they won’t be stated so clearly, and earlier this year it looked like voters in the state would say “yes” to both (which doesn’t make sense). Now, however, polls suggest voters have sorted things out and will choose to expand background checks.
Initiative 591 (I-591) would prevent background checks for gun purchases except when required by the federal government.Initiative 594 (I-594) would ensure background checks for all gun purchases, including those conducted online and at gun shows. I-594 looks like it will pass; I-591 looks like it will fail.
The Elway Poll — conducted by Elway Research, a longtime andhighly rated pollster — has been tracking voter sentiment throughout the campaign. In its first poll of the campaign, in April, support for I-591 was at 55 percent. Support for I-594 was at 72 percent. Since both measures had majority support, there was talk that the courts would need to intercede after the election to settle the outcome.
But the pro-background-checks measure was polling 17 percentage points higher than the anti- position, indicating a stronger base of support. The Elway Poll smartly asked a follow-up question that probed voters on whether they were in favor of “more extensive background checks for gun sales” or whether they favored “keeping the background check system as it is.” The share in favor of more extensive background checks was 62 percent in April, 61 percent in July and 59 percent in October.
Voters clearly wanted more extensive background checks. Anti-background-checks proponents had to rely on continued confusion.
The campaign, however, has helped to clarify each initiative. Support for I-594 has settled in the latest Elway Poll around where the explicit background-check question suggested it should be — about 60 percent. Meanwhile, I-591 is at 39 percent. Those two numbers, of course, add up to 99 percent; voters have caught on to the different initiatives, and their stated policy preferences match their voting intentions.
If these numbers hold up, and its worth noting that the support level for I-594 is roughly comparable to national polling on the issue of expanded background checks, then Washington State would be set to expand background checks significantly, and that could be the impetus for similar moves across the country that could potentially undercut the ability of groups like the National Rifle Association to stop legislation at the legislative level. This would be especially true when it comes to issues like background checks which seem to have near universal support even in states where gun rights are strongly protected.