Gun control advocates score major victory in Washington

Washington voters approved much stricter gun laws in Tuesday’s midterm elections, which supporters hope will help reduce gun violence.

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The initiative, approved by 60 percent of residents, raises the minimum age to purchase semiautomatic rifles (or assault rifles) to 21, from 18. It calls for enhanced background checks for these purchases and proof that the buyer has taken a training course. Washingtonians looking to buy the gun will also need to wait 10 days before obtaining it.

Gun owners will be required to meet certain storage requirements, like securing the firearm in a safe, or face charges.

Finally, the measure calls on officials to conduct annual background checks on gun owners, to determine their continued eligibility to possess a firearm.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died last month, donated more than $1 million to support the initiative.

The National Rifle Association challenged the measure in court, but an August decision from the state’s Supreme Court allowed it to remain on the ballot this cycle.

The NRA called the measure “extreme” and asserted that it strips away the constitutional rights of gun owners in the state.

"We all recognize that I-1639 is a hodgepodge of gun control schemes, and we're united in the effort to prevent it from passing and turning law-abiding citizens into criminals,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement in September.

Gun control was a main issue for some voters in the midterm elections, in the wake of a number of recent mass shootings. NRA spending this midterm cycle was down 68 percent when compared with 2014, according to The Washington Post, while pro-gun control groups spent the most since 2010.

Changes to federal laws are unlikely, however, as congressional gridlock will cause problems for any new national gun control legislation.

A number of “A”-rated NRA candidates won close races on Tuesday, including Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas and Mike Braun in Indiana – of whom the group said can be counted on “to defend our constitutional right to self-defense.”

However, Jason Crow – who has an “F” rating from the NRA – unseated five-term Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado. The latter was endorsed by the Second Amendment rights organization. Crow has openly discussed gun control, including banning assault weapons, expanding background checks and limiting firearm high-capacity magazines, which are capable of holding more than the standard 10 rounds.

In Nevada’s Senate race, incumbent Dean Heller was defeated by the state’s current Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who introduced a bill last year to prohibit high-capacity magazines and supports universal background checks.