All Politics is Local

What happened when the owner of a gun store attended a gun control initiative event

Queue James Bond theme.

Cue James Bond theme.

In a story full of suspense, intrigue and subterfuge, the owner of a local gun store attempted to pull off a covert mission but was cornered while trying to use the bathroom and had to make a daring escape — only to have the cops called on him. Luckily, most of his incredible pursuit is on display on Facebook, which is pretty much like watching a James Bond movie, except better.

It all happened at a campaign event for Initiative 1639, a gun control measure that will appear on the November ballot, held on Saturday at the Esther Short Building in Vancouver.

Kristen Ellingboe, communications director for the initiative’s campaign, said they had to call the police on Daniel Mitchell, the owner of gun store Sporting Systems (who would make a great replacement for Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible franchise). She said he made off with a script given to volunteers who agreed to phone bank, where they call voters in support of the initiative.

I reached out to the store on Facebook to get a response. Mitchell responded with a Facebook message saying that the script had “zero dollar value” and he was willing to phone bank, he just would’ve provided “the truth about the measure” to voters.

“I went to the bathroom, they followed me into the bathroom and took a photo of me while i was urinating, that in fact, upset me considerably,” said Mitchell via Facebook Messenger. “I decided to to leave rather than participate any further.”

Here’s what Eillingboe said happened: Mitchell showed up, signed in as a volunteer and began filming. After a short speaking program, event organizers announced there would be an opportunity for volunteers to phone bank. People in attendance were asked to stop filming during phone bank training.

Mitchell volunteered to phone bank. After receiving a script to use in phone calls, he asked for the code to access the bathroom. Rather than keeping the script in the room, like volunteers were supposed to, Mitchell slipped into his pocket on the way to the bathroom, which raised concerns.

“He’s very publicly opposing the campaign and I think he was interested in hearing how we talk to voters,” said Ellingboe.

Ellingboe said that phone bank scripts are sensitive documents that contain the phone numbers and addresses of voters. She said it’s illegal to take the document, and campaign organizers asked for it back several times.

Sporting Systems posted videos depicting what appears to be the incident on its Facebook page. One video begins in a bathroom, where the man filming (who appears to be Mitchell) is confronted by a campaign supporter who asks for the script back. In the video, Mitchell denies taking it.

“Just so we’re clear, right, if you use the script and you’ve stolen it for the purpose of another campaign, you can get in a lot of trouble,” the campaign supporter can be heard saying.

A screenshot from a video posting by Sporting Systems on Facebook.

A screenshot from a video posting by Sporting Systems on Facebook.

After exiting the bathroom, the campaign supporter asked the man holding the camera if he gave a fake name. The camera points to a sign-in sheet with what appears to be the name “Daniel Mitchell” written on it. The campaign supporter also accuses Mitchell of lying for the purpose of opposition research.

In the video, Mitchell denied giving a fake name. He said he came in to listen and offered to make phone calls, but refused to use the script provided by the campaign.

“I’ll participate in it,” he said. “I’d be happy to do it. You probably wouldn’t get the same results you wanted.”

In the video, the campaign supporter said he could see the script in Mitchell’s pocket. With his cover blown by an enemy agent, the video shows Mitchell making his daring escape (a point where the James Bond theme should really start playing). Once clear, Mitchell turns the camera on himself saying, “Well I’d say that went very, very well.”

Ellingboe said that the campaign called the Vancouver Police Department, which dispatched an officer who retrieved the script.

In his Facebook message, Mitchell said he was there “to listen and learn” and not to be disruptive nor to deceive. He also questioned if the campaign should hand out confidential information at a public forum. He also vented about how the initiative flawed the initiative is and how it’s funded by a billionaire, presumably a reference to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while the opposition is run by volunteers.

“When the officer came to visit, I gratefully returned the documents, explained that I was rather upset by the actions of the gentleman in the bathroom and hallway” he said in the message. “In phone banking, I would provide the truth about the measure.”

Ellingboe said that opponents of I-1639 can come to the campaign’s events. They just can’t walk off phone bank scripts.

“We are willing to have a conversation with any Washington voter about how we can make our state safer from gun violence,” she said.

 

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