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Seattle to pay SAF $38,000 in gun buyback records dispute

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Anti-gun Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn leaves office soon, and yesterday his administration agreed to pay the Second Amendment Foundation $38,000 to settle a lawsuit filed earlier this year over the city’s failure to release all public records relating to January’s gun buyback fiasco, as detailed in today’s Seattle Times.

SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said the money will help support his organization’s continuing legal battles and educational efforts.

It’s not the first time the city has lost a legal battle with SAF. Almost two years ago, SAF and other gun rights organizations including the National Rifle Association successfully sued the city to prevent a gun ban in city parks that violated Washington’s state preemption statute. Seattle pursued that case through the state Court of Appeals, losing a unanimous decision. A request for review was turned down by the state Supreme Court.

SAF sought the records under the Public Records Act after the buyback was held in a parking lot under I-5 in bizarre scenario that found gun rights activists making cash transactions on the surrounding streets with some people, saving their firearms from destruction. Some 700 guns were obtained and they were originally to have been melted down into “peace plaques” but instead ended up as rebar.

McGinn’s office issued an apology as part of the settlement. It stated, “The City of Seattle acknowledges that it had a duty under the Washington Public Records Act to provide all documents in response to the Second Amendment Foundation’s public disclosure request in a timely manner, and that it did not do so...The Mayor's Office later located additional records that should have been produced along with the response to the Foundation, but were not. While the initial failure to produce records in this case was unintentional, the City acknowledges that it did not meet the requirements of the Public Records Act, and for that we sincerely apologize.”

The city had provided more than 1,670 records consisting primarily of e-mails between several of McGinn’s administrative staff, but in June, a report appearing in the Seattle P-I.com about the buyback revealed an e-mail exchange between Washington Ceasefire President Ralph Fascitelli and the mayor’s office that had not been turned over to SAF. The mayor’s office said that these additional records had been located later.

That message from Fascitelli was damning because he warned McGinn’s office that buybacks have been shown to be ineffective and counterproductive, often backfiring. His warning was essentially ignored. Fascitelli confirmed the exchange to this column last summer.

The gun buyback, mounted as Seattle’s response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, has been a source of embarrassment to McGinn’s administration from the outset. The fact that it was held in a parking lot was a humorous irony to gun rights activists who noted that anti-gunners like McGinn often complain about illicit parking lot transactions being the source of crime guns.

Guns were taken in with no questions asked. A handful of those firearms had apparently been reported stolen at some time in the past. McGinn’s much-ballyhooed plan to have the guns melted and made into plaques erupted in a mini-scandal when it was learned he already knew they had been melted and turned into construction rebar.

SAF attorney Miko Tempski noted that Seattle’s apology insisted that withholding the documents was an “unintentional oversight,” but in conversations with Examiner, he said a similar public records request to the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine had been handled swiftly and professionally.

“It seems hard to conceive,” Tempski said, “how you could accidentally overlook hundreds of documents and how that could be unintentional.”

McGinn lost a re-election effort against State Sen. Ed Murray in November. Yesterday’s Seattle P-I.com reported that the liberal former neighborhood activist and local Sierra Club leader is leaving office with a vocal distrust of “elites.”

Herein lies another McGinn irony, because his anti-gun activities have smacked of elitism. He spearheaded an effort to create “gun free zones” in many Seattle business establishments, essentially telegraphing to law-abiding gun owners that “we don’t want your kind here.”

He has pushed for a change in the state preemption statute to allow Seattle to set its own gun laws.

This is not the first time the city has run afoul of the Public Records Act. Earlier this year, the Seattle Police Department had to pay the Seattle Times $20,000 for not releasing public records.

On Dec. 9, the department paid $235,000 in another lawsuit involving a man who alleged he was assaulted by an off-duty officer in 2009. Part of the case was a claim that the department withheld documents from the plaintiff, Evan Sargent.

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