Local clergy launch initiative for universal gun background checks

by: Jeff Dubois Updated:

SEATTLE - A new effort to require universal background checks for gun buyers was launched Monday in Seattle after Washington lawmakers failed to pass a background check bill this legislative session.

'"I was disgusted," said Cheryl Stumbo, one of six victims shot in Seattle's Jewish Federation shooting in July 2006. She was shot in the stomach and was in a coma for weeks.

"Those of us who are lucky enough to live, I think have an obligation to stand up for everybody else," Stumbo said.

A collection of clergy from around the state gathered Monday morning to push for mandatory, universal background checks in Washington state. Leaders from the Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, and Sikh faiths called for action.

"Our violence-prone society has turned weapons into idols," said Rabbi Daniel Weiner, from Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle. "And the appropriate religious response is sustained moral outrage."

That moral outrage is taking shape as a grass-roots initiative that the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility is filing, with support from the Faith Action Network,  next month. They're challenging Washington lawmakers to pass the initiative in next year's legislative session.

"And if they do not pass it, we will put an initiative on our state's 2014 fall ballot and let the people decide," said the Rev. Michael G. Ryan from Seattle's St. James Cathedral.

Under the initiative, background checks would record every transaction, so a gun used in a crime can be traced. Buyers would have to wait five days before taking possession of a gun, and sellers would have to make sure buyers aren't mentally ill, convicted felons, or under a restraining order for domestic violence.

Zach Silk, from the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, another organization behind the movement, said they need to gather 250,000 signatures before next January to get the initiative to the Legislature. 


"The most important thing to do here is make it hard as possible for a criminal to get a gun. Right now, it's very easy," said Silk.