State Supreme Court rules gun measure can go on November ballot

OLYMPIA, Wash.  — The Washington Supreme Court overturned a lower-court decision and ruled Friday that a gun-control initiative can appear on the November ballot.

The court reversed a Thurston County Superior Court judge's decision earlier this month that threw out more than 300,000 signatures used to qualify Initiative 1639, saying the petition format did not follow election law.

The suit in the case was filed by the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation.

In agreeing with the plaintiffs, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon had said the signature petitions did not clearly identify what would change in the law and the font was too small to be readable. He ordered Washington's secretary of state to stop certification of the measure.

But the Supreme Court ruling on Friday, written by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, said the secretary of state is not required to block a measure based on the readability and formatting of the proposed measure's text.

I-1639 would raise the age for the purchase of a semi-automatic rifle to 21. It would also expand the background checks for the purchase of these rifles.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman issued a statement thanking the Supreme Court for issuing a quick order in the case.

“This clears the way for our preparations to put I-1639 before voters in time for ballots to be printed,” Wyman said. “My priority is protecting Washington citizens’ right to make informed use of our state Constitution’s initiative process. Our voters deserve full and clear information about what they’re asked to sign onto.”

In response to the Supreme Court ruling, Alliance for Gun Responsibility CEO Renee Hopkins said, "This isn't  the first time the gun lobby has tried to stop Washington voters from enacting safer gun laws. When the people of this state have tried to put responsible laws into place, the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation have always stood in the way. ... The decision today is just another example of Washingtonians defeating the gun lobby’s callous disregard for our lives and our futures.”

The NRA and Second Amendment Foundation did not issue an immediate reaction.