King County Sheriff John Urquhart has denied a request for the names and addresses of concealed pistol license holders in his jurisdiction, sought by a New York-based on-line video and news organization, citing a Washington state law that exempts such information from public access.
Urquhart spoke Friday with Examiner and The Gun Mag, noting that Heavy.com asked for the information earlier this week. This column attempted to contact Matt Brown, editor-in-chief at the organization’s New York office, via e-mail but he did not immediately respond.
An earlier request for information on CPL holders in the cities and unincorporated areas of Redmond and Woodinville from a private citizen in Redmond has also been turned down, Urquhart said. The sheriff, elected last fall to fill out the unexpired term of former Sheriff Sue Rahr and running for re-election again in November, said his department has “about 50,000 names and addresses of CPL holders.”
Urquhart noted that under state statute, “License applications under RCW 9.41.070; copies of license applications or information on the applications may be released to law enforcement or corrections agencies.” Notice that does not say the information may be released to the general public.
There are more than 396,000 active CPLs in the state, with the largest number being in King County because it is the most populous of the state’s 39 counties.
In a telephone conversation, the wary Urquhart recalled what happened in New York’s Westchester County several weeks ago when a newspaper there got access under that state’s law – which has since been changed as a result – and published the names and addresses, with an interactive map, of all pistol permit holders.
That was done in late December in reaction to the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy. Heavy criticism fell on the newspaper, which refused to speak to other journalists, including Examiner, about its motives. So hot was public outrage in the Empire State that when new anti-gun legislation was hastily passed following the school shooting, privacy protections were included.
Apparently Heavy.com does not realize that not every handgun owner in King County has a CPL because in Washington State, no permit is required to simply own a handgun. And contrary to what newspapers and on-line news agencies might prefer, the privacy of Evergreen State gun owners is protected by the law. There is no central firearms registry, although the Department of Licensing does maintain records of all retail handgun transactions.
If Heavy.com was planning to publish this information as did the Journal News back in Westchester County, Urquhart is having none of it. While the statute, as written, may have a loophole in it, the sheriff said that the intent of lawmakers was clear.
“They don’t believe the information should be released,” he said. “Neither do I, so I’ve directed the requests be denied.”
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