Case Study

Gun Safety Ballot Measures

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On an otherwise bleak 2016 Election Night, there were big victories for the gun safety movement. SKDK is pleased to have produced the media and helped map strategy for two of the winning initiatives — in Nevada to expand background checks, and in Washington to establish emergency protective orders for temporary removal of firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.

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“But on Election Day, voters in three states — California, Nevada and Washington — did what cowardly members of Congress have utterly failed to do: They approved sensible measures to help control the gun violence…” USA Today, November 13, 2016


Despite its reputation as a rough-and-tumble gun-slinging state, Nevada voters put aside fears stoked by the gun lobby to pass Question 1. Having done extensive research on the subject of communicating on the issue of gun safety, SKDK brought insights to bear in the task of convincing Nevadans to support the measure. Central to the challenge was using convincing messengers from both the law enforcement and gun owner communities to convey that it’s possible to save lives and respect 2nd Amendment rights.

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The victory in Nevada was notable. As the Washington Post noted, “Nevada’s move… was seen as particularly significant since the National Rifle Association invested heavily there with an aggressive campaign that included opposition from the governor and attorney general.”

Washington State

The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) – working with partners Everytown for Gun Safety and Americans for Responsible Solutions – has positioned itself firmly at the forefront of advancing sensible gun safety proposals. WAGR hired SKDKnickerbocker in 2014 to produce television and digital advertising for Initiative 594, the first ever state ballot initiative to close the background check loophole on guns sold online and at gun shows.

In 2016, WAGR pushed the ball forward again, passing Initiative 1491 to institute emergency protective orders to prevent someone who is a threat to themselves or others from buying guns. With families typically the first to see disturbing behavior that could foreshadow either suicide or a shooting episode, this will give them the tool they need to potentially prevent tragedy. SKDKnickerbocker worked closely with the campaign team on strategy, messaging and the development and production of the statewide advertising campaign.

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These victories, along with a successful gun safety initiative in California, build upon the 2014 background check initiative in Washington state, the first background check initiative SKDK helped steer to victory. Counting that election, gun safety advocates have now won 4 out of 5 elections, proving that when Washington fails to act, the states can continue to push for meaningful progress. SKDK has been in a lead media and strategic role in 3 of the 4 victories.

“It’s been a rule of American politics for two decades that the gun lobby always wins. It wins in Congress, it wins in the state legislatures, it wins in the courts… Last night, the voters of Washington state broke the rule.” The Atlantic, November 5, 2014