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Washington lawmakers aim to block release of buy-back records

UPDATED: Fri., April 26, 2019

In this Oct. 4, 2017, photo, a bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)
In this Oct. 4, 2017, photo, a bump stock is attached to a semi-automatic rifle at the Gun Vault store and shooting range in South Jordan, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

OLYMPIA – The names and addresses of Washington residents who turned in their bump stocks as part of the state’s buy-back program should not be released under the public records law, some lawmakers say.

But they’ll need some parliamentary maneuvering to add that exemption to the law before the legislative session ends Sunday, because the opportunities for new ideas to become law are severely limited at this point.

The Washington State Patrol received two requests for records from the buy-back program in March, which would include the names and addresses of those who turned in the devices. One of those requests has since been withdrawn and the other has been modified to exclude names and addresses, but legislators said Thursday the law should be changed to protect those identities.

If lawmakers want gun owners to participate in future voluntary programs, Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, said, gun owners have to be able to trust the state. Young recently wrote a letter to all members of the House asking for bipartisan support on a bill to exempt the bump-stock records from public release.

Sponsored by Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, it has 31 co-sponsors. But it was only introduced this week, long after the deadline for considering a bill of its kind. To have a chance to become law, it would need a special vote to bring the bill directly to the floor without a committee hearing, then pass the House and be sent to the Senate, where it also would have to bypass the standard process.

House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, will meet with Young and allow him to make the case for the bill, a spokesman for House Democrats said Thursday.

Senate Republicans tried a maneuver of their own earlier in the day, proposing an amendment to a bill on the Public Records Act that already has passed the House and was being revised in Senate.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said if gun owners knew their names and addresses were going to become public, they never would have turned in their bump stocks. He’s heard from a constituent who believes the release of the records would put his family and home in danger.

“Here’s a real chance to correct an unintended consequence,” Padden said.

The buy-back list could be used by would-be gun thieves, because it is essentially the names and addresses of people who have semi-automatic rifles that would have had bump stocks attached, others said.

Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview, said he had a constituent contact him who dropped off a bump stock for a friend. She doesn’t even own a gun, but her name and address are on the record, he said.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, said the bill Padden was trying to amend has nothing to do with bump stocks, or exemptions. It was merely a bill about the administration of the Public Records Act.

But it involves the same chapter of the state statutes, Padden countered.

Not close enough, Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib ruled. The amendment was outside the scope of the original bill, and couldn’t be added to it, he said.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, is working on a separate bill similar to the one in the House, Padden said, but it would face the same hurdles to come up for a vote so late in the session.

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