State Ballot Initiatives on Gun Control Appear Likely to Pass

Anti-gun protestors rally at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, July 6, 2016 / AP
November 3, 2016

A number of state ballot initiatives that would create new gun control laws appear to be on their way to passing.

In Nevada, Maine, California, and Washington state, voters will consider a wide variety of different gun control measures when they go to the polls on Tuesday. The initiatives have received considerable financial backing from the nation's leading gun control advocacy groups. Everytown for Gun Safety alone has pledged $25 million to passing them, Reuters reports.

The initiatives in Nevada, Question 1, and Maine, Question 3, would institute a universal background check system for each state. Both would require private parties to meet at a licensed firearms dealer in order to obtain an FBI background check before preceding with a sale or transfer. Anyone caught breaking the universal background check law would be subject to a prison sentence and thousands of dollars in fines.

California's initiative, Proposition 63, revolves mostly around the regulation of ammunition sales. If the initiative passes, those looking to purchase ammunition would be required to obtain a special permit from the state government. It would also accelerate the timetable for a state law passed in July that requires businesses who want to sell ammunition to obtain a special state permit.

Initiative 1491, Washington state's initiative, would authorize state courts to issue so-called "extreme risk protection order," which would allow the state to strip the subject of the order, at least temporarily, of their firearms, other weapons, and concealed carry permit. The order could be issued after a petition filed by either police or a "family or household member" and the court finds the subject shows "significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or others with a firearm."

Polling in all four states indicates that the initiatives could see a clean sweep at the ballot box. A recent California poll from California State University, Sacramento shows Prop 63 with 72 percent support and 20 percent opposition. The latest Maine poll has Question 3 leading 52 percent to 43 percent. Nevada's Question 1 is up 54 percent to 38 percent. Washington's Initiative 1491 leads 67 percent to 18 percent.

Ballot initiatives have become the most popular tactic to impose new gun control measures in recent years. While Everytown and other leading gun control groups have spent big in ballot initiatives, the National Rifle Association and other leading gun rights groups have spent very little in opposing them. Instead, gun rights advocates have found even greater success in state legislatures, pushing Constitutional carry to nearly a dozen states in recent years.

Even if gun control activists get their way in each of the initiatives this year, the fight over these proposals may not be over. Gun rights activists are considering challenging the validity of some of the proposals in court if they pass.

"People are probably sitting back and waiting to see if this passes, and then if it does, you're going to see a lot of legal challenges," Dave Workman, of the Second Amendment Foundation, told NPR.

"That may be the strategy, to beat this thing in court, rather than try to fight what seems like a quote-unquote 'common-sense measure' at the ballot box," he added.