The Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs (WACOPS) has endorsed a “no” vote on Initiative 594, which would close Washington’s “gun show loophole” by requiring background checks on the private sale of all guns. I guess that’s not surprising. WACOPS is a very conservative organization. And while there are plenty in the law enforcement community who support I-594, there certainly isn’t unanimous support for tighter background checks.
More surprising is that WACOPS has endorsed a “yes” vote on Initiative 591, the far-right gun-nuttery initiative that would bar the state from enacting gun regulations stricter than those imposed under federal law. This is more than just opposing I-594 on the grounds that it might inconvenience WACOPS’ own members. I-591 would weaken Washington state’s gun laws, putting more guns on the street, and potentially into the hands of dangerous felons and the mentally ill who might not otherwise pass a background check.
A law enforcement union endorsing I-591 is kinda like a firefighter union endorsing greater access to arson. It borders on crazy.
It’s also not a particularly smart political move for a public employee union with important issues before pro-594 lawmakers. According to their winter 2014 newsletter, WACOPS’ top legislative priority “is to protect and strengthen the LEOFF Plan 2 pension system.” To do this they’re going to need to lobby pro-594 lawmakers like Governor Jay Inslee, Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp, and the leaders of a potentially Democratic Senate.
As a union, WACOPS primary obligation is to collectively bargain on behalf of its members. It’s hard to see how antagonizing the lawmakers with whom it needs to negotiate could in any way serve this mission.
I called and emailed WACOPS asking for comment, and have yet to hear back. But if they asked me, I’d tell them a smarter move would’ve been to just stay out of this fight entirely.