How I-594 Gun Control was Passed in Washington State

By Dean Weingarten

Initiative i-594 is a Gun Ban
Initiative i-594 is a Gun Ban
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona – -( I-594 in Washington State is a horribly written initiative.   It consists of 18 pages of legalese that seems more intent on trapping legal gun owners than on reducing violent crime.

Yet, it passed with almost 60% of the vote.  How did this happen?   I-594 (pdf) link.

Here is an analysis of the initiative by David Kopel.

There is a long history of disarmist initiatives that have started with strong majority support in the polling, that find on election day the support has evaporated and they lose by large margins.   I had some hope that this might happen in Washington State with I-594.   It did not.  Here are the reasons that I believe that second amendment supporters lost this fight.

1.   The disarmists had millions of dollars to use, funded by Michael Bloomberg’s  Moms Demand Action, now Everytown for Gun Sense, and millions more donated by Bill Gates,  Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen, and Nick Hanauer.

 Data reported by the Public Disclosure Commission indicates that these five men, and their spouses, contributed more than half of the total $10.3 million raised to pass I-594. Other wealthy Seattle-area elitists have added considerably more to the pot.

This bought saturation of the airwaves and mailboxes with highly deceptive ads.  It was a very well designed and effective campaign, aimed at the majority of people who do not understand the law well.

2.  The old media were all in for this campaign.  They were extremely one sided and partisan.   If a contrary message was to get out, it would have to be done outside the old media.   Here is a report a month before the election:

Today’s Daily Olympian carries a story asserting that controversial Initiative 594 “doesn’t create a gun registry,” while yesterday’s Everett Herald endorsed the 18-page gun control measure, and Saturday’s Seattle Times carries an op-ed piece touting I-594’s passage.

That doesn’t count the KCPQ true/false critique of television advertisements that labels an advertisement for Initiative 591 “mostly false” while saying a competing ad for I-594 is “mostly true.” Perhaps the negative reaction from readers to all of these is a strong indication that a growing number of Evergreen State voters are crying “foul” about what they believe is biased press coverage of the dueling initiatives campaign.

To reinforce this view, David Workman characterizes this report by the Seattle Times as an October Surprise:

The Seattle Times recommended a “No” vote on I-591 back on July 5, while endorsing rival Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure. Today’s story on the I-591 campaign claim that I-591 is supported by law enforcement in the form of two major organizations, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) and Washington State Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors Association (WSLEFIA) is dubbed “half true” by the newspaper’s “Truth Needle.”

The old media was careful to avoided mentioning law enforcement opposition:

The I-591 campaign has been running at a severe disadvantage, outspent nine or ten-to-one, overwhelmed by the I-594 $10.1 million war chest. But they have active-duty law enforcement overwhelmingly on their side, a fact that the gun control crowd has danced around, and most of the mainstream press has almost religiously avoided reporting.

After a year and a half of promoting I-594, once it had been approved by the electorate, the major media changed their terminology.     Gun control measure admitted after the election:

After 18 months of reporting and editorializing, and not until the day after the election, did the headlines acknowledge today what gun rights activists have been saying so long about Initiative 594: It’s a gun control measure, as affirmed by the Seattle Times and Seattle

3.  The strategy to defeat I-594 centered around offering a substitute initiative, I-591.   Most of the effort was spent on promoting I-591.   That did not correct the deception that was being promoted with I-594.   Only about $600,000 was spent on getting out information debunking the I-594 ads.  That was about 6% of what was spent promoting I-594, which does not count the millions in unpaid support it was given by the old media.  It was nowhere near enough.   Most voters never heard or read any opposition.  Here is a personal report from commenter, Difranco:

Dave. After spending two weeks doorbelling in southern Thurston county then spending 22 days in eastern WA hunting for deer and elk. Almost every hunter / gun owner I spoke to didn’t know it was a gun control initiative. This was especially true of the over 50 crowd who don’t spend much if any time on the internet.

The NRA dropped the ball on this. They should have started back in early summer. Not focused solely on the Puget sound, and dropped at least $1 million on TV spots the last three weeks running up to the election.

Here is another form a commenter on

I live in Washington state. There was no effective advertising against 594. I saw no ad stating the facts about the law, or the restrictions or the way it can turn a normal citizen into a lawbreaker or even a felon. There were MANY ads showing peoples faces that were killed by a person that had domestic abuse history and should not have had a weapon. Of course they never said that an accusation of domestic abuse does not have to be proven in court. Nor did they say whether the gun was purchased or loaned. It is a typical liberal law. It makes people feel good, but does not correct the problem (like laws make evil unable to to be perpetrated).

The amount of confusion created by the dueling initiatives and the lack of any effective messaging to confront the deceptive I-594 ads can be shown from the fact that  10% of the voters who voted for I-591 also voted for I-594.

4.  The disarmists that ran the I-594 campaign ran a very effective get out the vote and targeted campaign.  They used sophisticated internet tools to identify voters who could be swayed and to shape their message to them.  I did not see anything like it on the opposition side.   This sort of effort takes considerable money and expertise.  It works best with voters who are relatively ignorant of the issues.  If, through information gathered from sources such as Google, you can determine who is a single mother living in an urban center,  and can then send targeted, emotional messages based on that information, it is a powerful campaign tool.

5.  18 months of priming the population to support “Universal Background Checks” in the national media did not hurt.  UBCs were always touted as having support of 90% of the voters.   If so, with the tremendously one sided media campaign, I-594 should have won with at least 85% of the vote.   Clearly the 90% figure was simply the result of a push poll, or an ambiguous question that could be taken many ways.   In this election, with much in their favor, I-594 received a little less than 60% of the vote.

6.   There was a school shooting just days before the election.  While I-594 would have done nothing to prevent the shooting, the shooting played directly into the deceptive ad campaign run in favor of I-594.   We cannot know how much the shooting added to the I-594 victory.  One of the campaign supporters, Nick Hanauer, briefly put on his facebook page “we need more school shootings!!!” before retracting the statement.

The victory of the disarmists in Washington State has emboldened them.  They see that they can buy an election with enough money and the support of the old media.   They expect to export this technique to other states.   An effort to get on the ballot for 2016 is well on the way in Nevada.   Oregon, Maine, and Arizona are are also facing planned initiatives.

If second amendment supporters are to succeed in fighting these efforts, a different strategy needs to be employed.   A lot more money will be needed than was used in Washington State.  Plans will have to be made to counter the ad barrage and the old media bias.   A significant and sophisticated get out the vote campaign will be needed to counter the one used by Bloomberg’s paid experts.   The time to consider how to fight these efforts is now.   It would have been best if a strong, coordinated effort had been mounted in Washington State.   It was not, and now we have to deal with the results.   The next fight is likely in Nevada.    Who will lead the fight?   We will find out if the initiative has enough signatures to be turned in on Tuesday; it may take a few weeks to verify the signatures.

Can Billionaires buy elections?   If there is little opposition, and the old media is on your side, the answer, apparently, is yes.

Definition of disarmist

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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Thank you for that unbiased article “Ammoland” on why I-594 passed. Of course only those against it really understood it. The 60% who voted for it, must all be the low info voters. It passed b/c the voters viewed it as common sense regulation, nothing more/nothing less. Not b/c their propaganda was better than your propaganda. Good grief.


So much for no ex-post facto. Sad situation in the high tax burden states , trying to prohibit firearms and further their tax machine since you must pay property tax to live , the new sharecropping .


I think a major mistake was committed by the backers of I-591. The money spent promoting the I-591 competing measure would have been much better spent combating the I-594 initiative. This is a major misstep, not unlike a conservative independent candidate sucking votes away from the party endorsed Repub candidate – thereby *giving* the election to the Dem. Bad strategy SAF. Once it became clear that Bloomie and Gates and the other billionaires were throwing cash at I-594, all money should have shifted to combating it, leaving the I-591 effort for another day.

Gary Lee

I live in CT, where they passed a slew of new gun control laws in the wake of Sandy Hook. The laws didn’t address the problem, they just furthered the progressive anti-gun agenda. Never let a good crisis go to waste. The similarity I see here is the absolute apathy on behalf of the sportsmen. I can’t tell you how much complaining there was once the law passed and people figured out they now needed an ammo permit just to buy shells to go duck hunting or register the 12 round mag for their pistol, even if it just sat… Read more »


@ Warde Yeah, lets make more compromises so that the gun grabbers will stop (they wont and anyone who believes that is a fool) trying to take away our guns. NO! No more compromise. People who believe in the constitution and the second amendment should fight to stop new gun laws and to repeal the ones we currently have. I’d rather go down fighting for what is right, than make deals with those who do not believe in freedom and liberty. You’re not a patriot, you’re a coward who’s afraid he may not win so you sell out your country.… Read more »

Vince Warde

An absolutely great analysis of how we lost. Now we face a choice:

1) Attempt to argue against expanded background checks and lose, just as we did in Washington. This will result in more laws like 594 with more horrible provisions way beyond background checks on private sales.
2) Follow Alan Gottlieb’s advice and use Bloomberg’s own tactic against him. Write our own federal background check bill LOADED WITH PRO-GUN RIGHTS PROVISIONS, get it passed by the House and Senate and dare Obama to veto it.

Details here:

Capn Jack

So…Now what do we do? I don’t buy Microsoft, I don’t do Sonics Games, I don’t do Sea Hawks Games, or any of the rest of the “Sit on Yer Butt” sports….How do you fight millions of dollars with nickels and dimes?


Anybody with a computer can go to NRA sites and find out that they opposed I 594. I have a bumper sticker on my car right beside my stand and fight sticker. There are many places to find out what you are voting for. People need to put down their phone , video games and apathy and educate themselves. The last week prior to election day I received 4 different mailings from “people for responsible gun ownership”. When I first took them out of the mailbox I thought they were from the NRA. They had pictures of fathers hunting with… Read more »


I live in WA and am so far beyond disgusted there are no words. At the most elementary level, gun owners need to rethink their suipport for the NRA. As the article correctly notes, the NRA spent a nickel for every dollar spent by the opposition. What few ads it ran were a half baked farce. The NRA is a monster, taking in on the close order of $150 million a year. In other words, it spent 0.4% of its annual income to fight the ONLY fight that mattered this year. It was just another instant replay of the sort… Read more »


So very true, Don!! The NRA threw Washington State away. They ran an anti I-594 ad in “The American Rifleman”…….and threw in a small bumper sticker WOW!!!!!!!


That indian kid that went on the war path and shot up them kids probably doomed this bill. Plus,I’m sure alot of voters didn’t understand the ramifications of it either.

Michael Kent

Excellent analysis.