Why You Want to Vote Against Initiative 594

Written by Jim Huckabay on October 17, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

JIM’s NOTE: In 819 Friday columns for the Ellensburg Daily Record (the last couple years of which are posted here weekly), this is the first one of my tomes that had to be on the editorial/opinion page, as opposed to the outdoor section – can’t imagine why…

In nearly five decades of considering issues and and casting ballots, the most misleading ballot title I have yet seen is the one for Initiative 594, found on your just-received 2014 ballot:

“This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”

The final three words of the title, “with specific exceptions,” hide broad definitions of “transfers,” and exceptions so narrow that virtually every time a firearm changes hands—even a loan between friends and family members—it is subject to background checks, paperwork, fees and, in the case of handguns, government registration. The complete text of the initiative is found on pages 65 through 70 in your new voter’s pamphlet. You will see why the 6,500 members of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs oppose it. You will also find that this initiative criminalizes behaviors which have been accepted as ethical and honorable for hundreds of years.

Proponents will tell you that Initiative 594 closes “loopholes” for criminals purchasing or transferring firearms at gun shows or flea markets and through online sales. Just who are the people using these “loopholes?” According to a U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, dated November 2001 and revised in 2002, fewer than 2% of criminals purchased firearms at a gun show or flea market. A much earlier study placed that number as high as 6%. That same report indicated that only 12% of convicted felons had acquired firearms from dealers. Currently, by the way, virtually all online (internet) sales and trades of firearms require that the firearm be physically delivered through a licensed dealer—with a standard background check. Where are the loopholes?

Under 594, virtually all sales and transfers (including gifts) of handguns will be reported to the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL), and entered into its database. Make no mistake, 594 is a universal handgun registration initiative. (It is not expected, however, that those illegally possessing or transferring handguns will comply with the new reporting rules.)

My father, The Old Man, would be shaking his head now, still asking his favorite questions: “What is the real problem here, and how in hell will this brilliant solution solve it?” Haven’t we seen over lifetimes of working our Constitution and Bill of Rights that we will never change criminal behavior by criminalizing lawful behavior?

We keep our children safe around cars by training them from infancy to adulthood about how to behave in the presence of vehicles. If we expect our kids to grow up to be safe around firearms, we must spend an equivalent amount of time exposing them to firearms safety training. In truth, there is an exception for firearms coaching and training for kids under age 18. 594 allows a firearms transfer (hand-off) to a youngster for “educational purposes…while under the direct supervision and control of a responsible adult…” In the case of competitive and recreational shooting, however, Initiative 594, may effectively kill the shooting programs of 4-H, FFA, Boy Scouts and others. What does future safety look like then?

Significant numbers of adults take firearms handling classes before deciding on the best fit handgun or other firearm to purchase for themselves. At a recent meeting at Hal Holmes, one of the instructors explained how 594 would affect his classes. “Do the math,” he said. “I have eight students, each of whom is to handle at least four different handguns of mine, and maybe a long gun or two. Each time I hand a gun to someone, a transfer—with fees and paperwork—would have to happen. And the same would have to happen when they handed it back to me or on to another student. We would be looking at up to 80 transfers, at somewhere around $30 to $50 a pop. Who’s going to pay that? The first time I ignored the rules, I would be guilty of a misdemeanor. After that, each violation would be a class C felony. How does that make the citizens of Washington safer?”

There is an exception for such adult instruction, actually. It requires that the “firearm be kept at all times at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located.” To my knowledge (depending upon how that phrase is interpreted) there may be one such range in Kittitas County, only a couple in Yakima County, and maybe one in the Wenatchee area. So, where will the much-needed adult instruction take place?

Ballot Inititiative 594 is a Trojan Horse. It is not a measure to make us safer; it is a measure to make many of our firearms traditions difficult and/or illegal. It will alter the way we law-abiding citizens use and enjoy our firearms. And, in my view, it will seriously impact our ability to keep and bear arms. Contact every person you know—especially on the West Side—and ask them to read the whole text. Then ask if that is the future they truly would like to see. If not, they must vote against Initiative 594.

All About Our Forest Grouses

Written by Jim Huckabay on October 10, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Forest grouse season opened the first of September. Several homeys have reported seeimg more birds in more places than usual. This is cause for excitement for several reasons: grouse are yummy galliformes (“chicken-like” partridges); bag limits are generous (four a day and 12 in possession); and the long season runs through the end of the year—across all the other hunts which take us into the woods. I love grouse for all these reasons.

We have three (technically, four) forest grouse in Washington. Their numbers have stayed pretty stable over the last century or so, but population are cyclic. This seems to be an “up” year.

Spruce grouse, Falcipennis Canadensis, (aka “fool hens,” since they often sit tight even in the face of danger) are associated with lodgepole pines, from which they seldom wander. Spruce grouse are found all across northern North America, but Paradise is at the southern edge of their range, and limited habitat makes them our least common grouse. The smallest of our grouse, an average fool hen may weigh a bit over a pound and be 17 inches long from tip to tip.

Ruffed grouse habitat also crosses the continent, but a bit farther south than the lodgepole turf of their northern cousins. Ruff’s preference for riparian areas (willows, cottonwoods, dogwood and so on) with nearby forests means that we have plenty of habitat and generally good numbers. The ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbellus, is just a bit larger than our fool hen, with lengths to 20 inches and weights to a pound and a half or more. This is the grouse which five-year-old Huckling Tena once called “a chicken dressed up like a turkey!”

Our third (and fourth) forest grouse is (are) the “blue” grouse, Dendragapus obscurus. At 20 inches in length and weights up to nearly three pounds, this is our largest grouse. These birds range from the Yukon to New Mexico. They were among the very first western birds recorded, in August of 1776, by the the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition. As its members sought a route from Santa Fe to the California colonies, they developed a taste for the delicious wild chickens.

Blue grouse have been my favorites since I was nine or ten. Uncle Ed took me out on his place up the Little Chumstick, north of Leavenworth, to meet his blues—his “chickens.” I learned why I’d been given my uncle Van’s ancient .22 Winchester Model 67, and how tasty those birds were. Decades later, they were the centerpiece of one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life, but that’s another story.

Males have a bluish-gray plumage, and “combs” above their eyes which often change color from yellow to red when they become excited or disturbed. The females have a mottled-brown plumage, and blend in with their surroundings when hiding or on the nest.

Now, about that “third (and fourth)” business. After studying DNA evidence, The American Ornithologists’ Union separated blue grouse into two separate species in 2006. We now have the sooty grouse, Dendragapus fuliginosus, and the dusky grouse, Dendragapus obscurus. Similar in most ways, the defining characteristics are subtle, but noticeable. In mating display, the fleshy air-sac patches at the neck are reddish-purple in the dusky and yellow in the sooty. In the field, the most useful distinguishing marks are on their tails; the dusky has all dark tail feathers with occasional gray tips, while the sooty has a broad gray terminal band. Everything else you want to know is available online at Cornell University’s bird guide at www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide.

The sooty grouse ranges from Alaska to California, and is fairly common in the western part of our state. The dusky grouse, aka “dusky blue grouse” or “interior blue grouse” occupies the rest of what we have long called the range of the blue grouse. Washington is the only state where the ranges of the two species overlap.

A few wildlife agencies have bought into the species separation. Montana continues to use blue grouse for one of its forest species. Oregon calls them blues, but locates the sooty through most of its forest grouse range, and the dusky in the northeast. Idaho and Colorado regs now refer only to the dusky grouse. In Washington, we still hunt “blue grouse,” without discrimination.

This fall, the dusky/sooty/blue grouse will be in brushy and open transition zones around the firs and pines.

Given that we generally use firearms to hunt grouse, given that grouse hunting is an activity in which we often include youngsters, given my oft-expressed concerns about Initiative 594, and given that ballots arrive in a few days, next week’s column will be about youngsters and that initiative. Given my strong opposition to 594, expect to see this column on next Friday’s Daily Record editorial page.

All About Opening Days & Food Traditions

Written by Jim Huckabay on October 3, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

It’s time. A week from tomorrow, general deer season opens. It’s a big deal; we are immersed in family traditions around openers from the first moment we show a spark of interest.

As families, we review safe handling rules for the tools we will take afield. We make sure they are clean and sharp and ready to go. We sort our gear and clothing, and talk about how the weather will affect the season ahead. We purchase our licenses and permits according to prevailing rules and family-favored businesses. All the while, we anticipate the meal or food which sends us out the door knowing that the critter we seek will give itself this day. Oh, yeah, we gather foods and snacks and drinks for our packs; sustenance for luck and alertness out there.

I was fourteen when I was first invited to hunt deer on Uncle Ed’s place, up the Little Chumstick out of Leavenworth. I remember having a tough time sleeping, with visions of the buck deer which would give itself to me so that I could help feed my struggling family. I remember being terrified that I might somehow screw up in front of my father, The Old Man, and my uncle. More than anything, though, I remember the breakfast Aunt Evy fixed before we headed out for each opening day from that one on—ham and eggs and pancakes. I loved the pancakes and savored them long enough for The Old Man to get cranky and remind me we were burning daylight. I don’t remember that we got so many deer, but I remember many great family times.

I was twenty-one when my mom and step-dad Ray handed me the sourdough starter I still use today. I made breads and rolls that went with me on every hunt for decades. At mid-day, I’d find a watching spot and sit. Slices of that sourdough, chunks of salami I made from last year’s deer or antelope, a slab of sharp cheddar cheese, and a handful of pear or cherry tomatoes—all washed down with fresh cold water—made every hike in wild country worth the walk. It is still a great tradition.

I think each family has its small rituals and traditions for season openers, but there is more. Beyond special hunting/pursuing openers, we have traditions to identify specific times of year or the state of our lives. We can and freeze vegetables and fruit to hold the coming winter at bay. We count other moments or stages as incomplete without a specific location or person. Our rituals evolve as we grow and change, but they are always important.

Buddy Rick Doell and I were barely voting when we fell into the most compelling tradition of our outdoor lives. In the fall of 1964, a year after we met at Lowry AFB, we stumbled across an old man’s diner. We had partnered up for our hunting and fishing, and were on a dark-thirty drive to deer hunting in Colorado’s South Park. Full of ourselves and thoughts of big bucks and successful hunts, looking for a quick bite, we rounded a bend and saw the lights of the diner.

The old wood-slab diner sat alone on the outside of a carved-out turn on the west side of the road down Crow Hill. It had a clean, well-worn linoleum counter smoothed by the sliding of a million plates of eggs and sausage and flapjacks. The tall, lean old-timer behind the counter had cooked every plateful. Somehow, he cooked while a hand-rolled smoke stayed lit, hanging in the farthest possible corner of his mouth. “Well, what’ll it be boys?”

And so it was for years; our place, our tradition, our own “Now yer fed, boys, so go get ‘em!” The diner was a required stop for every fishing and hunting adventure we had. In 1969, things changed. The old man went to his reward, Rick split his helmet in a motorcycle accident, I went off to grad school and they built a bank on the diner’s hallowed ground. We were never the same after that, but any mention of the old timer put us back in a safe and sacred time.

This whole thing has me thinking about openers and food traditions…and pancakes. Violet Burke’s husband and boys were avid hunters, and they always had friends joining them for opening day of deer season. She told me once that she fixed breakfast for whoever showed up—she just expected it. Then, somewhere around 27 years ago, the Swauk-Teanaway Grange was struggling for a future and she suggested a big breakfast on the opening day of deer season. The rest is history, as they say.

A week from tomorrow, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. the social event of the season happens at the Grange Hall, 1361 Ballard Road West, off highway 970. Follow the signs, pay your eight bucks (half that for kids) and celebrate a real opening-day tradition.

I look forward to The Hunters Breakfast. The ham and eggs will be great, but I love the pancakes. With every bite, I’ll be hearing The Old Man growling, “C’mon kid, eat your #%&?! pancakes. We’re burning daylight here.”

It’ll be opening day.

The Trojan Horse – Initiative 594 (Now What?)

Written by Jim Huckabay on September 26, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

I promised last week that we would look at actions you might take, now, to protect yourself from some of the difficulties and landmines you will experience if Initiative 594 passes in November.

The bottom line is this: not much. Some attorneys around the state are willing to help you set up a family trust, but there is doubt about whether or not such a trust could be established in a timely manner. A street-sense suggestion is that you formally give the firearms away now to those family and friends you wish to have them, then keep the firearms safe for them. Holding on to someone else’s firearms, however, would be an illegal transfer under 594. At the end of every conversation I have had about this is a certainty that—if it passes—594 will end up in court over its re-write of Washington law to make transfer violations the equivalent of “serious crimes” and class C felonies, its consecutive sentence requirements, and its several conflicts with federal law.

In our last episode, I passed along a small handful of the concerns Phil and the Washington Arms Collectors (washingtonarmscollectors.org) have with the initiative. I mentioned that the Council of Police and Sheriffs (www.wacops.org/) had voted in June to oppose Initiative 594.

If you read all 18 pages of the initiative for yourself, you certainly saw that its certified title, below, falls somewhere between misleading and dishonest.

Certified ballot title for Initiative 594:

“This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”

As widely publicized, background checks would be required for nearly all sales or transfers. “Transfer,” remember, includes gifts and loans to another—even loaning a rifle to a buddy for test shooting or to replace his or her own disabled firearm. Transfer, under 594, goes far beyond transactions involving a sale or trade…and well beyond just a simple inconvenience for law-abiding citizens supporting the greater good of keeping society safe.

Allow me to pass along a couple more examples of the traps in this initiative—under that phrase “with specific exceptions.” One of these comes from my own experience in Wyoming ten days ago.

Suppose you keep a rifle in your ranch truck and one of your youngsters drives the truck on your property. Under the provisions of 594, you would have both acted illegally unless you were in the truck and the kid was a minor. If not, a dealer with a federal firearms license (FFL) would have to handle a transfer at the beginning and the end of the drive.

Among the five of us who attended the 2014 Antelope and Deer Safari in Wyoming, were buddies Steve Kiesel and Hal Mason. It quickly became obvious that repairs I made a few years ago to my favorite 7mm hunting rifle had come undone. Hal offered me the use of his sweet-shooting .243, as he was using another rifle this year. Steve offered me the use of his .270 as he had already filled his tags with it. I opted to use Steve’s rifle as I was a bit more familiar with it, and headed off on my own to make deer meat.

This exact scenario plays out across the US every hunting season—probably a thousand times. Such a loan is simple courtesy. Under 594, however, that loan would have been an illegal transfer. Even though we were all hunting legally, Hal could not “transfer” his spare rifle to me without an FFL dealer and paperwork. Steve could loan me his rifle without such paperwork, but only if he stayed by my side while I hunted. Thus, under the provisions of 594, we would have broken a part of the law covered by that phrase in the ballot title: “with specific exceptions.”

This week I have heard one person speak of “an epidemic of gun violence” and somewhere in this rag, I saw a reference to the same thing. At some level it comes down the The Old Man’s questions about defining the problem to be solved. Honoring The Old Man’s inquiring mind, we might think about where such an epidemic exists and how this initiative is going to solve that “epidemic.” It’s a bit over the top, but this seems akin to quarantining Ellensburg residents to stop the terrifying spread of ebola in West Africa. We will soon look at existing firearms rules and such “epidemics.”

Explore this for yourself. Read Initiative 594 and debate “analysis” of it next Tuesday, 6 p.m. at the Hal Holmes Center. A variety of folks who have carefully studied the initiative, including representatives of the National Rifle Association, will be there. Bring your views and let’s talk.

Ballot Inititiative 594 is a Trojan Horse. It will significantly alter the way you, your family and your friends use and enjoy your firearms. It will also, in my view, seriously impact your ability to keep and bear arms. Contact every person you know—especially on the West Side—and ask them to read the whole text. Then ask if that is the future they truly would like to see. If not, they must vote against 594 and in favor of 591.

Our Opposing Firearms Initiatives – 594 Is a Trojan Horse

Written by Jim Huckabay on September 20, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Last week, I passed along the ballot titles for our opposing firearm initives. I also suggested that you read the full text of each. Again, the titles below are all you will see on your ballot.

Certified ballot title for Initiative 591:

“This measure would prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”

Certified ballot title for Initiative 594:

“This measure would apply currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.

“Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]”

591 covers less than a page and its ballot title accurately reflects its text and intention. 594, on the other hand, covers 18 pages and its ballot title is misleading at best and dishonest at worst.

You will note that some very wealthy and influential people are supporting 594. You will also hear that a few high-profile law enforcement officials think it is a good idea. I would encourage you to consider that the membership of The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs voted, on June 27, to support Inititative 591 and oppose Initiative 594. The Council (www.wacops.org/) is fifty years old, and has some 4,300 members.

Phil Shave is Executive Director of the Washington Arms Collectors (washingtonarmscollectors.org). The group organized in 1952 and today has more than 17,000 active members. Phil put together a several-page fact sheet addressing the ways in which 594 will impact our lives, should it pass. I have read the full text of the initiative, and I would not argue with any of his points. Almost all of his concerns fall within the catch-all phrase at the end of the ballot title, above, “…with specific exceptions.” Let me pass along a mere handful of Phil’s concerns. Find the text of 594 online and read it for yourself.

Background checks would be required for all sales or transfers. “Transfer” includes gifts and loans to another person—even a loan lasting less than two minutes. This goes far beyond transactions involving a sale for money or a trade for goods.

Gifts are only exempted if they are to immediate family members—my son-in-law is not an immediate family member.

There is significant paperwork involved with any transfer. This includes loan of a rifle or shotgun to a buddy or non-immediate family member. Many of the transactions must go through a Federal Firearms Licensee, and there will be new costs whether you sell a firearm or give it to someone outside your immediate family. If you screw up the transfer paperwork more than once, your violations will become class C felonies, which result in loss of your civil rights (such as voting and possessing firearms).

If you and your son or daughter go to a trap range to shoot, and you both use the same shotgun, you are okay unless the kid is over 18. In that case, you will both do something illegal. The same is true if one of your buddies comes along and shoots the gun.

Most adult handgun or firearms safety training classes would be breaking the law simply because of the passing of a training firearm from person to person.

If you hand off a firearm to a buddy to drop off for repair or even stock refinishing, you will both have committed a crime.

Even if your under-eighteen kids have completed their hunter safety training and have years of hunting experience with your firearms, they must be under your direct supervision while hunting. If not, you have each committed a crime.

Word is that 594 is not a firearms registration law. Question: Where does all that paperwork go?

And the list goes on. And on. And on…

Oh, by the way, did I mention that, in the 18 pages of text for 594, at least three pages have to do with taxes related in one way or another to the firearms transfers and background checks?

And in the midst of this mind-boggling reading, I kept asking myself a paraphrase of one of The Old Man’s questions: “What is the real problem to be solved here, and how in hell is this 18 page mess going to solve it?”

Next week, a look at your options, if you think you want to protect yourself and your family from the problems 594 will bring, if passed.

Ballot Inititiative 594 is a Trojan Horse. It will significantly alter the way you, your family and your friends use and enjoy your firearms. It will also, in my view, seriously impact your ability to keep and bear arms. Contact every person you know—especially on the West Side—and ask them to read the whole text. Then ask if that is the future they truly would like to see. If not, they must vote against 594 and in favor of 591.