Coming to a screen near you: TV ads already starting for gun initiative on fall ballot

SEATTLE -- The November election is more than two months away, but political ads are already hitting the airwaves.  Supporters of Initiative 594, to provide universal background checks for gun purchases, have raised millions of dollars to convince voters to strengthen Washington’s gun laws.

This week, I-594 received another $2 million. The latest money comes from Bill and Melinda Gates and local entrepreneur Nick Hanauer, each of whom gave $1 million.  That’s in addition to hundreds of thousands from both Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer.

These local billionaires have helped I-594 raise nearly $6 million, with more expected by the November.

Opponents of I-594 are pushing an initiative of their own, I-591, which would prevent any background check law from being more restrictive that the federal government’s.  It would also prohibit any gun registry.

While that effort’s pockets aren’t nearly as deep, I-591 supporters have raised $1 million to push their alternative.

The money behind the universal background check measure, I-594, will buy a lot of TV ads, but there is more to the strategy than that.  Hanauer, who is the leading force behind the effort, is trying to pick an expensive fight with the National Rifle Association.

“We expect that for the NRA to beat our initiative, they would have to spend in the order of $40 (million) or $50 million,” Hanauer said earlier this summer during an interview on the Seattle Channel.

He noted that the group only spends $20 million across the nation during a typical election cycle.

“If I draw them into a fight that cost them $40 million in this cycle," Hanauer said, "that’s a lot of money that they don’t ordinarily spend.”