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Put to the People 

A campaign to put gun reform on the ballot in Washington; plus, an anti-discrimination ordinance in Coeur d’Alene

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New Gunfight

A Seattle-based gun control advocacy group launched an initiative campaign this week to seek voter support for universal background checks on private firearm sales in Washington state.

The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, formed in January in response to the Newtown shooting and renewed gun control debate, looks to collect close to 300,000 signatures to put an initiative on the ballot after legislative efforts to pass new gun restrictions failed earlier this year.

Campaign manager Zach Silk writes in a statement that Washington requires licensed dealers to conduct background checks, but private sales through gun shows or the Internet remain unchecked.

“Law enforcement agencies and public safety officials agree that this loophole promotes illegal gun trafficking and enables individuals with criminal intent to purchase firearms,” he writes.

The alliance hopes to collect signatures throughout this year with plans to have an initiative for the fall 2014 election.


‘Let the Voters Decide’

After first signaling he may support attempts to block them, Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan now says he will vote to send two citizen initiatives to the ballot. One initiative, supported by Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, would outlaw corporate lobbying and campaign contributions at the city level. Another from Envision Spokane would add a Community Bill of Rights to tighten rules for development and river protection. The county auditor is currently validating both efforts and if enough valid signatures are found, the council will decide whether to put them on the ballot.

Fagan says some constituents weren’t clear on his position or saw a contradiction between opposition to putting these initiatives on the ballot and Fagan’s mantra of “Let the voters decide” on behalf of the anti-tax Voters Want More Choices PAC he belongs to.

Fagan and Councilmembers Mike Allen and Nancy McLaughlin have been outspoken against the initiatives, which they believe are unconstitutional, and have supported a legal review of them now underway. Fagan says regardless of the results of the review, he now plans to vote to put the initiatives on the ballot.

“Obviously we’re going to be stomping our feet talking about all bad things those initiatives will bring,” Fagan says, “but at the end of the day what I’ve been about is letting the voters decide.”


Discrimination Legislation

Sandpoint, Boise, Hailey and Moscow have already passed citywide legislation making it illegal to refuse to hire or rent to someone because of their sexual orientation.

But so far, Coeur d’Alene hasn’t joined them. Coeur d’Alene Councilman Mike Kennedy wants to change that. “Most people wonder: Doesn’t everybody have those protections under the law right now?” he says.

On May 13, Kennedy says, an ordinance adding that language will go before the general services committee before being examined by the council. “If the state Legislature would have acted, this would have been unnecessary,” Kennedy says.

So far, Kennedy says, other council members have expressed support, though says Councilman Steve Adams has already sent a letter with boilerplate opposition language. Councilman Dan Gookin says he doesn’t oppose the measure, but wonders if it is necessary. In other words, are Coeur d’Alene residents actively being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation?

“I would be curious … whether there has been a problem that has been demonstrated. I don’t oppose it,” Gookin says.

Kennedy argues the ordinance will show Coeur d’Alene’s commitment to tolerance.

“I want Coeur d’Alene to maintain its place at the forefront of human rights,” Kennedy says.


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