Taxpayers may be tapped to fix gun registry backlog

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A run on weapons is proving too much for state regulators to keep up with, and it may be taxpayers who bail them out.

A gun registry called ACCESS is months behind the surge in sales, but a plan to pump in more public money is drawing fire from weapons dealers.

"Being a taxpayer, I'm not fond of spending money on something that is already -- the database -- is already there," said Brian Schuetz, who owns Olympic Arms, a firearms manufacturer in Olympia.

Handguns are being snapped up in Washington faster than information on the buyers, sellers and weapons can be entered into the database.

"Over the last seven years, firearms sales in our state have nearly tripled while the number of our staff has remained the same," said Christine Anthony, a Department of Licensing spokesperson.

DOL is now asking for another $409,000 so temporary workers can help process this pile-up of paperwork. Staffers say leaving the backlog could hurt police investigations, as law enforcement agencies check the handgun database thousands of times every day.

"Public safety is actually being compromised," Anthony said. "The further the backlog is, the less current the information is for law enforcement."

However, gun store owners like Schuetz believes the access database is redundant. He pointed to the federal and state reporting forms he's required to submit, and says law enforcement can already track handgun sales through databases that aren't backlogged.

"If that one's already up to date, why do i want to spend money to bring the other one that does the same thing," Schuetz said.

Still, law enforcement agencies contacted by KOMO 4 insist that despite the flaws, they need the ACCESS site as one more tool to fight crime.

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