Everytown for Gun Safety claimed an overwhelming victory with tonight’s passage of I-594, Washington State’s background check initiative—proving that when citizens take public safety to the ballot box, gun safety measures win. The success of I-594, which had 60 % of voter support—including 74% from King County—after initial results, represents a new frontier for Everytown in the nationwide fight to prevent gun violence and defeat the gun lobby. Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund—the advocacy arm that led Everytown for Gun Safety’s electoral activity—spent more than $4 million, placed half a dozen full-time staffers on the ground, and produced state-of-the-art research to support I-594, Washington State’s ballot measure to reduce crime and save lives by closing the background check loophole. A resounding 55% of Washington voters also rejected I-591, a gun lobby-backed measure that would have weakened existing Washington State gun laws.
“When it comes to guns, the only Washington that mattered this election was Washington State and the victory for I-594, the background check ballot initiative there, proved the polls right – when Americans vote on public safety measures to prevent gun violence, gun safety wins,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The NRA might be able to intimidate Washington DC and state legislators, but they don’t intimidate American voters – and we expect to prove this again in Nevada where signatures are currently being gathered to put background checks on the ballot there too.”
“Moms took the fight to keep our children safe from gun violence to a new grassroots level – and the election results show that while the gun lobby can bully politicians, they can’t bully the American people at the voting booth,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “We set out to sign up one million Americans to vote for gun safety, and that’s just what we did this election. We knocked on doors, we made calls, and we have built a grassroots movement that is not only rivaling the gun lobby, but winning key races. But this is a long-term effort – the gun lobby has had the field to themselves for decades and we’re finally meeting them on their turf and showing them—and the legislators in their pockets—that Americans will stand up for public safety.”
“The people of Washington have delivered an historic and enormous victory for common-sense gun laws that will reverberate across our country,” said Zach Silk, campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “By voting Yes On 594 and No on 591, Washington has demonstrated that when a coalition of everyday citizens has the resources, support, and energy necessary to take on the gun lobby, they can win. Washington will serve as an example for Americans in states across our country that they can stand up for common-sense values of gun responsibility and win.”
“Tonight’s victory of Washington’s 594 proves that citizens, including gun owners, do want common-sense gun safety laws, said Mayor Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma. “Washington State is an example for the entire country – showing citizens and elected officials in all states that they have the right to stand up for common-sense values of gun responsibility and community safety – and can win.”
“The people of Washington State voted to keep our kids, schools and communities safer tonight when we passed I-594. It’s clear that the gun lobby has met its match in the Washington State moms, volunteers and thousands of grassroots supporters who voted for common-sense gun laws,” said Meredith Browand, a volunteer for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in Washington. “Washington moms worked around to clock to pass 594, and we’re going to keep working to create the safe communities that our kids deserve.”
Earlier this year, Everytown launched the Gun Sense Voter campaign with the goal of signing up one million Americans to vote for leaders and laws that will prevent gun violence—and recently achieved that goal. Everytown also endorsed state and federal candidates in states around the country. In Washington—with nearly 67,000 grassroots supporters and 30 mayor members across the state—Everytown and Moms Demand Action volunteers mobilized voters for I-594 until the final hours of the campaign, reaching out to nearly 15,000 voters during more than 900 hours of volunteering in support of I-594.
Washington State Win Represents Next Frontier for Gun Violence Prevention
Victory in Washington was not a foregone conclusion – despite its national reputation as a ‘blue’ state, Washington, like Colorado, is diverse and competitive in its large number of exurban and rural communities, with high rates of gun ownership. In addition, Washington has been one of the National Rifle Association’s strongholds for years – the state where the NRA spends more money than in any other state in the country. In 2013, the NRA spent $68,300 in direct contributions to state legislators while Texas, the next biggest recipient of direct NRA contributions, got $26,050 less.  As a result, the gun lobby successfully blocked efforts to pass background checks in the Washington State legislature in 2013 and 2014 before the measure was taken directly to voters.
The background check victory in Washington State also represents a new frontier in the fight for public safety measures that can help prevent gun violence. Everytown is taking the fight for background checks to Nevada next, where signatures for a 2016 ballot initiative are due next week, and to Arizona, Maine and Oregon.