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SAF awarded by open government group for Seattle gun buyback probe

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The Second Amendment Foundation was honored Tuesday by the Washington Coalition for Open Government (WCOG) with its Key Award for forcing the City of Seattle to provide public records relating to the city’s controversial 2013 gun buyback.

Yesterday’s presentation of the Key Award was by WCOG President Toby Nixon. He told Examiner that the diverse board of directors, consisting of liberals and conservatives, voted unanimously for the SAF award because, politics aside, they all believe in open government. In a press release, SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said his organization is “extremely proud” to receive the award.

The lawsuit came when the city, under the administration of former Mayor Mike McGinn, did not provide requested documents relating to last year’s gun buyback. SAF discovered it had not received all the requested documents when Special Projects Director Philip Watson read about some e-mails in a story that appeared in Seattle P-I.com. That story revealed a telling e-mail exchange between McGinn’s office and Ralph Fascitelli, head of Washington CeaseFire, who advised against the buyback.

But McGinn’s office ignored Fascitelli’s advice and pushed ahead. The buyback became a fiasco, taking on a circus-like atmosphere as gun activists lined up on the streets and bought – for hard cash rather than paper gift cards – several firearms, some of considerable value.

When SAF discovered it had not received all the documents, the organization sued. SAF General Counsel Miko Tempski, whose law firm specializes in open records requests, handled the case. Gottlieb was joined by Tempski and Watson at the informal award presentation, at SAF’s Bellevue office.

SAF's legal action forced the city to disclose the documents, apologize and promise to change its policies. In addition, the city had to pay SAF legal fees totaling $38,000.

“It is gratifying when people who may not agree with us politically recognize the importance of holding government responsible for transparency,” Gottlieb said. “The public has a right to know how its money is spent and how its elected representatives and their staffs respond to people.”

Nixon told Examiner that the need for government transparency is not a partisan issue. His Seattle-based organization has honored others who have found waste and mismanagement in government, or uncovered misuse of public-owned property and equipment.

It wasn’t the only award SAF received this week. On Sunday in Indianapolis, SAF received an award from the National Rifle Association for having been an exhibitor and participant in the NRA’s annual meetings and exhibits for 25 years.

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