When the federal ban on bump stocks went into place, existing owners were required to destroy their bump stocks or turn them over to authorities. The attachments let semi-automatic rifles mimic the firing rate of a fully automatic weapon, and the ban came about in response to the Las Vegas shooting of 2017. Although the federal government did not offer compensation for handing in the accessories, some states set up buyback programs.
In Washington state, for example, people received $150 for every bump stock they turned over to state police. The program attracted a lot of people; violators could face thousands of dollars worth of fines and as many as ten years in prison.
Now, however, their names and other personal information are about to be revealed to the public. Someone has filed a Public Records Act request to obtain the names and addresses of the people who surrendered their bump stocks as part of the program.
The request, which was received via email, stated what the individual wanted to do with the names and addresses: “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.”
Not much is known about the person who filed the request. The name on the email, “Yati Arguna,” might be a pseudonym as outlets like Ammoland were unable to find any information on anyone with that name. Arguna did not provide a phone number or home address, yet the Washington State Patrol still plans to release the information to this individual.
The Washington State Patrol sent a letter to gun owners warning that they would be complying with the request and releasing the names on April 26 “absent a superior court order enjoining disclosure.” In other words, gun owners may be able to stop the release if they act quickly.
At the same time, a gun rights activist, Paul Holgate, got caught up in the mess after submitting a PRA request of his own. The self-proclaimed Second Amendment advocate, who has participated in pro-gun actions in the past, said his request was merely aimed at trying to find out what information the authorities keep on gun owners.
That request was also included in the package mailed to gun owners with the Arguna request, and Holgate, whose name and address were also included, was contacted by a slew of concerned gun owners. For his part, he says he was trying to find out if the state was building a database of its own. He also said he believes Yati Arguna does not exist.
This type of scenario is precisely why so many people are unwilling to turn in guns, magazines and banned accessories. The idea that anyone with an internet connection could find out who has or has had guns is unsettling to say the least, not to mention a serious invasion of privacy. The identities of gun owners in Washington who have concealed pistol licenses is considered confidential by law.
The information could make people vulnerable to home invasions or burglary, not to mention the scorn of a public that takes a bizarre kind of joy in attacking whomever social media tells them is “bad” – and people in favor of guns are one of their favorite targets.
Sources for this article include: