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Rantz: Activists may use buyback data to target and dox local gun owners

A bump stock device, (left) that fits on a semi-automatic rifle to increase the firing speed, making it similar to a fully automatic rifle, is installed on a AK-47 semi-automatic rifle, (right) at a gun store. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

If you participated in the recent bump stock buyback program, your personal information may be used to target and harass you as a gun owner. Now one Republican lawmaker aims to help.

RELATED: State bump stock buybacks hit $150K

Washington lawmakers banned the bump stock after it was used in a mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. Last month, the Washington State Patrol offered $150 to bump stock owners to return their devices. In doing so, the WSP collected personal data of approximately 1,000 people so that they can mail them their checks.

Now, that information may be used against the gun owners who participated in the program. A number of gun owners received letters indicating their information has been sought via a public disclosure request, which caught the attention of one local lawmaker.

“They were not engaging this program to have their data collected in order to potentially have it shared online,” Rep. Jesse Lee (R-Gig Harbor) told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “I mean, this could very rightly put these people in harm’s way from groups that want to target gun owners.”

Beyond targeting gun owners for harassment by anti-gun fringe activists, it could make them a target for robbery, and can discourage gun owners to participate in future buyback programs.

The WSP received two requests for gun owner information, one stating a clear intent to distribute publicly. One request was made by Yati Arguna, via email, on March 22:

This is a public records request. I seek to inspect any and all completed WSP bump stock buy back forms. I seek to obtain the names and addresses where checks will be mailed for the bump stock buy back 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.

It’s unclear if Arguna is a real person, as you can anonymously request public records. We’ve been unable to find any records of someone with that name. We’ve emailed his email address on file but have not heard back.

It’s possible the intent is as written (which, to be clear, makes little sense, as these are clearly responsible gun owners who voluntarily gave up their bump stock and pose no threat to their neighbors), or it’s a gun rights advocate pointing out a glaring problem in the buyback program in a way that’s gotten everyone’s attention.

A second request was made by Paul Holgate, via email, on March 27:

I would like to know the following, regarding bump-fire stock buyback program recently in effect:

As of 3/27/19:

  1. How many unique individuals turned in 1 or more bump-fire stock device.
  2. During the buyback period, what all information was recorded/documented from the WADL/ID card that the individual showed, during the buyback process.
  3. I would like a copy of any policy/procedure used by WSP and/or provided to other LE agencies regarding how to process and/or manage the buyback of the bump-fire stocks.
  4. I would like a copy of any policy/procedure used by WSP and/or provided to other LE agencies regarding the disposition and/or disposal of the collected bump-fire stocks.
  5. I would like a copy of any documents created before or during the buyback process, that was/is used to document information about the person(s) selling the bump-fire stock and/or information regarding the quanitity [sic], type, brand or manufacture of the bump-fire stock that was sold to WSP during the buyback.

This individual appears to be a real person and, according to AmmoLand.com, Holgate has a history of 2nd Amendment advocacy. It reports that it has spoken to him to confirm he has no nefarious intent. We have not been able to verify this, but have reached out to Holgate for comment.

Regardless, Rep. Young is concerned.

“If you think about it, I mean to be as responsible as they were and to engage in this process with a lot of [magnanimity] voluntarily, to put them in harm’s way seems to be a very bad outcome,” Young explained. “It’s one of the reasons why conservatives tend to not support Democrat bills this way … and so we need to fix it and we’ve got a bill to do that.”

Young introduced HB 2182, which “will carve out and specifically make the disclosure of this information exempt so that these people can maintain their privacy.”

Young said he’s asked House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-Seattle) to provide an exemption and offer this bill up immediately for a vote. Young said the speaker hasn’t responded to his request yet, but is confident it can pass.

“I’m sure that we’re going to have at least one Democrat vote on in favor of this, although, to be honest, I’ve got to think that a lot of them or a lot of the more independent-minded representatives are going to come back and they’re going to admit that they didn’t realize that this was a possible problem with the bill that they passed last year,” Young explained. “They’re going to want to fix it. So I think the speaker brings it up for a vote, there will be a lot of support to pass this out. We can move very, very quickly.”

In the meantime, AmmoLand reports a Pierce County resident, with the Gun Owners of America, filed an injunction to keep the information private, while a gun rights activist took to Medium, to warn those who seek to dox gun owners.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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