GUEST COMMENTARY: Vote Yes on I-1639: Safer communities

By Paula Barnes

In Washington, it’s easier to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle than a handgun.

Initiative 1639 applies the same restrictions to semi-automatic rifles that already exist for handguns: It raises the age of purchase from 18 to 21 and it strengthens background checks.

I-1639 establishes a 10-day cooling-off period before the purchase of a semi-automatic weapon, which gives local law enforcement enough time to complete the background check.

It requires the buyer of a semi-automatic rifle to show proof that a firearms safety course was completed within the past five years.

I-1639 incentivizes secure firearms storage by holding gun owners accountable if a child or other prohibited person accesses and uses their gun to harm themselves or others, and it includes safety awareness provisions to ensure buyers are aware of firearms ownership risks.

Contrary to anti-1639 claims, this initiative does not violate the rights of military personnel of any age. Existing law (RCW 9.41.060) exempts military service members, who, by the way, receive extensive weapons training.

Another persistent no-on-1639 falsehood is that buyers of semi-automatic assault rifles must relinquish medical privacy rights. The existing background check for handguns requires law enforcement to determine if a prospective buyer is ineligible because of an involuntary commitment. I-1639 extends this same requirement to buyers of semi-automatic rifles. (RCW 9.41.040 2C iv)

Gun rights extremists claim we are safer when armed. The truth: The U.S. has about six times the gun homicide rate of Canada, seven times that of Sweden and 16 times that of Germany. The U.S. also has, per capita, the most privately owned guns in the world. In 2017, U.S. civilians owned 120.5 guns per 100 residents, more firearms than people. A recent study shows after adjusting for such variables as socioeconomic factors and other crime, places with more guns have more gun deaths, including homicides, suicides, domestic violence and violence against police. Clearly, more armed citizens do not increase public safety. (Source: Vox “America is one of 6 countries that make up more than half of gun deaths worldwide.”)

No-on-1639 proponents recently threw out a red herring by suggesting that, according to FBI statistics, in spite of stronger gun laws California had 54,789 robberies in 2016. This is nonsense. California is the most populous state, and the relevant statistic is 139.6 robberies per 100,000 people. Compare this to Nevada, with its looser gun laws, at 215.6 robberies per 100,000. (

More from the anti-1639 folks: “guns are what give us power in the first place.” Seriously? That may be true for banana republics, but here in the U.S., our strength comes from our people, talents and hard work, our educational, cultural and religious institutions, and, above all else, the rule of law.

Semi-automatic rifles are designed to kill as many people as possible as fast as possible. I-1639 applies the same reasonable restrictions on these deadly firearms that already exist for handguns.

This summer while collecting signatures to put I-1639 on the ballot, I met countless gun owners who enthusiastically signed the petition. They understood this initiative simply requires gun owners to balance rights with responsibilities.

Gun-proliferation promoters consistently oppose any strengthening of gun laws, ignoring the public health crisis, facts and data. They seemingly consider senseless loss of life, including children, the price we must all pay for their resistance to reasonable gun laws. They intertwine gun culture with patriotism. But they are in the minority.

There are many more of us who have seen too many school shootings, read too many stories of toddlers shooting a sibling, and heard too many thoughts and prayers. Enough is enough. Reject their baseless arguments and vote yes on I-1639.


Paula Barnes lives in Sequim and has been a volunteer with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility since 2014. She is currently a local organizer for the Yes on 1639 campaign.

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: How’s the fishing?

HOW’S THE FISHING? If I had a buck for every time I… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Warm music brightens up long-term care facility

ONE DOESN’T REALLY have to tune a washtub bass, so Larry Baysinger… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Port Angeles nurse can ‘go anywhere’

“I’LL GO ANYWHERE,” she told me. Marilyn Perkins is a recovery nurse,… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A special time of year

IT’S A SPECIAL time of year when friends and relations get together… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Most wonderful time of the year

IT’S THE MOST wonderful time of the year. There are so many… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Making the trek east

TO A SMOKER with a sizable habit, running out of cigarettes is… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Kate’s arts, sweet and savory

MAKING MUSIC WITH people, emphasis on with: That’s what Kate liked to… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Thanksgiving: Knowing when you got it good

THERE’S A LOT of talk these days about holiday stress. It makes… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Salmon’s gift to the future

MAYBE YOU’VE HAD one of those days. You wake up on an… Continue reading

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Mushroom season is fading out

IN THE FALL, there is gold out in the forests of the… Continue reading

Richard B. Anderson
A tribute to four Peninsula residents who have received Medal of Honor

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column by PDN Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb first… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: My crazy uncle

I’VE GOT THIS crazy uncle. He’s got some bad problems. Maybe you… Continue reading