At this point, the debate over Initiative 1639 isn’t over whether it will be good law, but whether the law was followed in qualifying it for the ballot.

Last week, Secretary of State Kim Wyman certified I-1639, which seeks to raise the minimum age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21 from 18, require enhanced background checks and require gun owners to secure firearms kept in their homes, for the November ballot.

However, Wyman said she had concerns about whether the format of the petitions was constitutional. Wyman’s office said state law requires a “readable, full, true, and correct” description of the measure to be printed on the reverse side of the petition, but that the text of the I-1639 petition sheets lacked underlining and strikethroughs to explain its changes to existing law.

Wyman said she certified the measure for the ballot because enough signatures were valid in order to meet the constitutional requirements and that her authority over specific criteria of the petitions is limited.

Wyman essentially paved the way for the matter to be decided in court.

And, just after Wyman made her decision to put the measure on the ballot, the National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit challenging Wyman’s decision to certify what the NRA contends are flawed petition sheets.

This is going to be a legal quagmire that could last well past the November election if the ballot is allowed to stay on the ballot.

If I-1639 is approved, further legal challenges will emerge.

In the end, it seems — at least to us — the law was not strictly followed in the way signatures were gathered. It’s likely the state Supreme Court will be the final arbiter.

And that might well take until after the election. If that’s the case, those who voted in favor of the initiative will complain that the will of the people is not being followed.

That’s nonsense.

The law is in place for a reason. It ensures the process leading up to approval of an initiative — making law — is followed so all parties are treated equally and fairly. It is, or at least should be, about doing things correctly.

Again, we don’t believe the law was followed in the collecting of signatures for I-1639. The initiative should be disqualified.   

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart