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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Venture Capitalist Funds New Anti-Gun Violence Coalition

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Gun control advocates in Washington are banding together to turn up the heat on state lawmakers. In the coming days, they plan to announce the formation of a new grassroots lobbying coalition. Their first target is passage of universal background check legislation.

The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility has seed money from Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer. Other founders are Seattle city councilwoman Sally Bagshaw, former council member Tina Podlodowski and Seattle writer and activist Eric Liu.

The group has hired a lobbyist and a campaign manager. Democratic strategist Christian Sinderman is also on board. He says initially the top priority will be to pressure lawmaker to require that all gun sales are subject to a background check -- not just those at dealers.

“The universal background checks bill seems to be the vehicle that’s getting the most attention and has the most support so far," Sinderman says "And so we’re working on that so far because that’s the bill that’s moving. Looking longer term we’ll have other targets.”

The fledgling coalition has tapped Zach Silk as campaign manager. Last year, he led the successful effort to uphold same-sex marriage in Washington. Just as in that campaign, Silk says the strategy will be to harness voices from a broad coalition so that lawmakers don’t just hear from traditional single-issue lobbying groups.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."