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Originally published Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 6:51 PM

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Gun-rights group sues Seattle over documents allegedly withheld

A gun-rights group is suing the city of Seattle under public-disclosure laws for allegedly withholding emails from rival Washington CeaseFire dealing with January’s gun buyback.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Second Amendment Foundation has sued the city of Seattle for alleged violations of the Public Record Act, claiming the mayor’s office withheld emails and other documents relating to the city’s gun buyback in January.

The Bellevue-based gun-rights group claims the city withheld January email exchanges between members of Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff and Ralph Fascitelli, the president of Washington CeaseFire, an anti-gun violence group.

The foundation claims that other documents were also withheld and still others were improperly redacted, and that the city should not have charged a 10-cents-a-page “scanning fee” for documents already in an electronic format.

The foundation said it only learned of the existence of the emails after they were referenced in an article posted June 26 on the seattlepi.com website.

The foundation said it filed a request under the Washington Public Disclosure Act in early February, just days after the city held a gun buyback that netted more than 700 firearms, each traded for a $50 gift card.

The buyback cost the city about $31,000, most of that going to pay for overtime for police officers staffing the event.

On April 1, the city provided the foundation a disc containing 1,672 pages of mostly emails. Some of the documents were improperly redacted, according to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.

Later, the city provided the Second Amendment Foundation with other previously withheld emails, saying it had re-evaluated some of the documents previously held back.

The CeaseFire emails were not among them, the lawsuit says.

“I should not have to read about something we asked for, and were denied, in a newspaper article months after our request,” said the foundation’s special-projects director Philip Watson. “Our request to the city ... was clear and unambiguous.”

The foundation is seeking the documents it was denied, reimbursement for the scanning fee, and is asking the court to impose a statutory penalty of as much as $100 per document per day for documents that were wrongly withheld.

The mayor’s office, which has not completely reviewed the suit, declined to comment.

Mike Carter: mcarter@seattletimes.com or 206-464-3706

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