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Frequently Asked Questions

Who's behind this initiative?

Good question. Gun control proponents would have you believe this is a grassroots initiative, when in truth it's being funded and run by gun control organizations and a handful of anti-gun tech billionaires who want to destroy the Evergreen State's proud traditions and support for our fundamental right to self-defense.

As of July 31, the gun control organization behind this initiative had already raised nearly $4.4 million to put this initiative on the ballot. The top 10 contributors have donated over $4,061,572 to put this gun control initiative on the ballot. 

  • Paul Allen donated over $1.2 million.     
  • Nicolas and Leslie Hanauer donated over $1.2 million.    92% of the contributions in support of this initiative came from just 10 donors.
  • Steven and Connie Ballmer donated $1 million.
  • Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group founded and funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $250,000. 
  • Lenore Hanauer donated $100,000.
  • Sibyl Frankenburg donated $100,000.
  • Steven Kessel donated $100,000.
  • Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, an election arm of Bloomberg's gun control group, donated $59,500.  78% of contributions to this initiative came from just three families (Paul Allen, Nicolas and Leslie Hanauer and Steven and Connie Ballmer).  

The next five top contributors donated another $150,000. 

92% of the contributions in support of this initiative came from just 10 donors.

78% of contributions to this initiative came from just three families (Paul Allen, Nicolas and Leslie Hanauer and Steven and Connie Ballmer).  

Washington Public Disclosure Commission -- Safe Schools Safe Communities





Initiative 1639 claims to regulate “assault weapons,” but this won’t affect hunting rifles and target shooting guns, right?

No. This Initiative adopts a new and bizarre definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle.” Under this definition, many hunting guns, competitive shooting rifles, and target-shooting guns that match the current definition of “rifle” under current Washington State law would all become “assault rifles.” This definition goes beyond what has been used in other “assault weapon” bills, and sweeps in any semi-automatic rifle, regardless of configuration or caliber. Popular rimfire rifles like the Ruger 10-22, Remington 597, or Marlin Model 60, lawfully used by countless young adults for recreational target shooting and small-game hunting, are included. These aren’t “machine guns” or “weapons of war,” and aren’t regulated as such by the federal government. 




I’m over 21 years old, so this won’t affect me as a buyer or owner of a semi-automatic rifle, right?

Not true. Under the Initiative, you will pay a new $25 fee on all sales and transfers of these guns, face a longer waiting period, and be subject to expanded background check and documentation requirements. To be eligible to buy or acquire these guns, you will have to show proof of having completed the new training required. You will be prohibited from selling or transferring the gun unless the sale or transfer complies with the new restrictions (for example, no sales to anyone under 21).  In addition to the $25 fee, the cost of acquiring an “assault rifle” will have to include the fee for the new training and any fees gun dealers will add to cover their time and expenses in complying with this new law. The storage law in the Initiative will restrict how you store the gun (and any other firearms) at home and in all other places, and impose criminal liability for a violation.

How will Initiative 1639 impact crime and public safety?

It won’t, apart from impeding the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Criminals do not go through legal channels to get guns. A study concluded that criminals do not buy guns in gun stores or at gun shows, and only rarely steal guns. Changing the gun laws to raise the legal age of purchase and possession and add new restrictions on legal sales will likely have little effect on how criminals get their guns.

Since 2013, the proponents of this initiative have promised voters that their previous gun-control initiatives would address the issue of violent crime.  Their 2014 initiative I-594 was misleadingly promoted as an effective and easy way to keep “firearms out of dangerous hands” that will make “a huge difference when it comes to the rate of gun violence in a state.” The first criminal charges for a violation did not occur until more than two years after the enactment of I-594 and involved conduct that was already illegal under federal law. study last year concluded the I-594 law had “little measurable effect.” Criminals will ignore any restrictions imposed pursuant to I-1639 in the same way they ignore I-594 and other laws, and will continue to obtain guns as they do now – through illegal channels like the black market. Initiative 1639 will actually make it more difficult for legitimate gun owners to access firearms to protect themselves and their families.

Under this Initiative, if my firearm is in my car and my car is stolen, could I be punished for a storage crime?

Possibly. The storage crime doesn’t have a blanket exception for cases where the prohibited person gains access to a gun though a criminal act or the criminal act of a third party; the only exception is access by “unlawful entry.” This doesn’t clearly apply to access that occurs because of other crimes, like theft of a motor vehicle.

Is it true that this initiative only applies to "assault weapons"?

No. I-1639 creates a new definition of "semi-automatic assault rifle" to include "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". 

That means any semi-automatic rifle will now be defined as an "assault rifle" under Washington law. That includes popular rimfires like the Ruger 10-22, Remington 597 and Marlin 60

In addition, I-1639 would do the following:

  • impose a new $25 gun tax on each semi-automatic rifle
  • mandate gun owners lock up all of their firearms or face criminal charges if a firearm is stolen and used in a crime
  •  require all firearms to come with warnings about the “inherent risks” of firearm ownership as an attempt to further stigmatize firearms
  • require completion of a training course to purchase semi-automatic rifles
  • establish a government registry of firearms

I’ve heard the Initiative creates new crimes. I work in law enforcement and keep guns at home for self-defense -- will I be affected?

Absolutely. The Initiative creates a new storage crime that applies to any firearm left or stored in any place. Even at home, all firearms have to be kept in a manner that makes the guns inaccessible and useless for self-defense. Anyone – not just the gun owner – who leaves or stores a gun in a way that would enable a “prohibited person” to get access to the gun may face potential felony charges if a prohibited person obtains the gun. The Initiative has no exceptions for police officers carrying or keeping firearms while on duty or at home, although it does exclude situations where it can be proved that the gun was kept in a locked gun safe or secured with a trigger lock or similar device.

Would my 10-22 really count as an “assault rifle”? I bought it legally years ago!

As absurd as it may seem, yes. This Initiative uses a bizarre definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle” that applies regardless of when and how the rifle was acquired. Under this definition, ordinary hunting guns, competitive shooting rifles and target shooting guns that come within the definition would all become “assault rifles.”


Why should 18-20 year old adults be able to purchase semi-automatic rifles?

Washington’s law-abiding adults aged 18-20 are responsible enough to vote, purchase a home, and serve in our military. Yet I-1639’s proponents want you to believe these same adults cannot be trusted to defend themselves or their families and are attempting to use the crimes of a few as a justification to curtail the rights of hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians.  We shouldn't prohibit adults from exercising fundamental, constitutional rights.

What kind of personal information will be collected and stored by the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) under this Initiative?

The Initiative requires that semi-automatic rifle sales and transfers create a government paper trail. A dealer must make a triplicate record with the details of the sale, including the make, model, caliber and serial number, and the purchaser/transferee’s personal information (signature, name, address, occupation, race, gender, date and place of birth, citizenship status, height, weight, and driver’s license or state ID number). One copy must be sent to local law enforcement; another copy must be provided to the DOL. The signed form also constitutes a waiver of confidentiality by the purchaser/transferee and permission to health care facilities to release information about the person to law enforcement agencies. Nothing in the Initiative prohibits the state’s use of this information for the creation of a gun registry or restricts what the DOL may do with the information.

The Initiative proponents state it will “ensure continued eligibility to possess or purchase an assault weapon.” Does this mean surrender or confiscation of firearms?

In all likelihood, yes. The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) and law enforcement will collect and store information on purchases and transfers of guns under this Initiative. The Initiative also directs law enforcement and the DOL to develop a process to “verify, on an annual or more frequent basis,” that both handgun and “assault rifle” owners continue to be eligible to possess a firearm under state and federal law. It authorizes law enforcement to “take steps to ensure” that anyone who fails the verification process no longer possesses guns. The Initiative doesn’t specify how this will be enforced, but doesn’t rule out mandatory surrender and confiscation as a way to enforce this directive.

I’m 20 years old. Under this Initiative, could I still hunt with my semi-automatic rifle?

The Initiative generally makes possession of an “assault rifle” a crime for anyone under 21 years old, even for those who purchased and possessed the gun lawfully in the past. The language of the Initiative does not clearly indicate what will be allowed as exceptions. The explicit exceptions do not include activities like lawful hunting, competitive shooting, or transport of guns to a gunsmith.

Is it true that I-1639 creates a new tax on firearms?

Yes.  I-1639 imposes a $25 gun tax on the purchase or transfer of any semi-automatic rifles. 

Since Washington already requires any sales/transfers to go through a licensed dealer, borrowing a semi-automatic rifle from a friend would require a background check, up to a 10 day waiting period, and a $25 tax on each transfer. 

How do I know what training would fulfill the requirement for all purchasers in this Initiative? How much will the training cost?

Like many things in the Initiative, the details are left up in the air. The Initiative specifies the topics that must be covered in the training. It has no exceptions for persons who already have guns, or have police, military, or firearm instructor training. It has no exceptions for anyone who needs a firearm for self-defense because of stalking, domestic abuse, or some other emergency. The Initiative has no limit on the cost or fees that can be charged for the training. 

I have a concealed carry permit (CPL) in Washington State. Am I exempt from the up to ten-business-day waiting period that the Initiative imposes on purchasers of a semi-automatic rifle?


What are some of the new restrictions on semi-automatic rifles (“assault rifles”) in this initiative?

Adults under 21 years of age are absolutely prohibited from purchasing pistols and semiautomatic rifles, and non-sale transfers (like loans and gifts) to adults under 21 years of age are almost all prohibited, too. The Initiative also makes possession of semiautomatic rifles by anyone under 21 years old a crime, even if the gun was acquired legally, unless one of the few exceptions applies.

Persons who are otherwise age-eligible to purchase or acquire these guns will have to show proof of training that meets the standards in the Initiative. These sales and transfers are also subject to “enhanced” background checks, an up to ten-business-day wait period, and additional government paperwork, including a waiver allowing government access to health care records.

Copies of sale and transfer records are retained by the state Department of Licensing. The cost of each purchase or transfer will be increased by a new $25 (for now) tax.  Dealers and their employees must comply with these new sale and transfer rules for “assault rifles,” and are prohibited from selling “assault rifles” to non-residents. The Initiative directs that all dealers must provide new warning notices to customers and post these at the dealer’s premises. 

Is it true that initiative backers spent nearly a million dollars paying signature gatherers just to get this initiative on the ballot?

No. They spent a lot more than that. The gun control group behind this initiative spent approximately $3.8 million on signature gathering alone.  

Washington Public Disclosure Commission  86% of all contributions were used to pay a firm to obtain signatures to place I-1639 on the ballot. 


I thought a judge barred I-1639 from appearing on the ballot. What happened?

On August 17, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon issued a writ of mandamus barring I-1639 from the November ballot  as it did not comply with state law requiring that signature sheets include a true and accurate representation of the initiative as filed with the Secretary of State's Office. Underlining and strikethrough that was absent on the printed initiative was inconsistent with the initiative as filed.

Gun control proponents immediately appealed the ruling and on August 24, the Supreme Court of Washington rejected NRA and SAF's challenge to the petitions.  The Washington Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Thurston County Superior Court which had barred I-1639 from the ballot. The effect of the Supreme Court's ruling is that I-1639 is back on the November ballot. 


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Paid for by Washingtonians and the National Rifle Association for Freedom, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030. Pursuant to WAC 390-18-025(1), the top five contributors are: National Rifle Association of America, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Sporting Systems, Henry Harbert, Joe Wilson.