Washington State lawmakers and a national gun rights organization have moved swiftly to prevent disclosure of the identities of gun owners who turned in bump stocks in exchange for $150 compensation from the state in an attempt to thwart a Public Records Act (PRA) request for the information from someone apparently using a fake name.
The intent of the person seeking the information is to expose those former bump stock owners’ identities and home addressed. The request came to the Washington State Patrol via email from a person identifying himself/herself as “Yati Arguna,” but an attempt to trace that name was fruitless. Rights activists believe it is a fake name.
If the information is released, it would pinpoint the names and homes of gun owners who still legally own a semi-auto rifle. A bump stock is an after-market shooting accessory for modern sporting rifles that allows a shooter to boost the rate of fire by more rapidly by speeding up the semi-auto action. They were outlawed in response to an October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that claimed more than 50 lives and left hundreds more injured. It may have been the only crime committed by anyone using the accessory, which replaces a standard buttstock.
“This is a public records request,” the “Arguna” note stated. “I seek to inspect any and all completed WSP bump stock buy back (sic) forms. I seek to obtain the names and addresses where checks will be mailed for the bump stock buy back (sic) program. My intent is to create a searchable database and map of Washington state to overlay the locations. The public has a right to know that these dangerous devices may have been in neighborhoods that the (sic) live in and who has previously owned such devices.”
Reaction from gun owners to the provocative request has been outrage. Many activists are now asserting that this is one reason why gun owners should ignore laws because the resulting risk to their privacy. The “Arguna” email request could become a public relations nightmare for gun control proponents.
A second PRA request for details about how the WSP is handling information collected in order to distribute funds to people who turned in bump stocks came from a Kennewick gun owner whose intentions are being misunderstood and misrepresented on social media.
Gun Owners of America announced earlier in the week that it was filing a legal action to prevent release of the information collected by WSP so it could authorize the checks and mail them to bump stock owners. The $150,000 budgeted went fast, so the state collected at least 1,000 bump stocks before the money ran out.
Rights activists using social media have uniformly been declaring “I told you so” to all of those gun owners who participated in the buyback.
State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) has introduced House Bill 2182, along with a handful of co-sponsors. Filed as an emergency, the bill would protect the names, addresses and other personal information of individuals how participated in the bump stock buyback.
A second PRA request from a Kennewick gun rights activist has also been filed, but some gun owners either misunderstood or misrepresented the man’s intentions. Paul Holgate submitted the PRA request as something of a watchdog effort to determine if WSP or some other agency might misuse the gun owner information.
Holgate told Liberty Park Press, “I’m a big Second Amendment advocate and I also believe in government accountability.”
The National Rifle Association, which holds its 148th annual convention this weekend in Indianapolis, issued a statement supporting the legal action to prevent release of the gun owner information. Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislation Action stated, “Every law-abiding gun owner not only has the right to keep and bear arms but also the right to privacy.
By releasing the names and addresses of those who participated in this program the state is effectively drawing a roadmap for criminals intent on guns. Not only is this decision irresponsible – it’s also incredibly dangerous.”