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Hawaii Gun Rights Group Sues FBI over ‘Rap Back’ Program

By: Robert Davis

A gun rights group is suing the FBI over its alleged failure to cooperate with a Freedom of Information Act (FISA) request.

Hawaii Firearms Coalition (HFC), along with attorney Stephen D. Stamboulieh, sued the FBI in the United States Court for the District of Columbia for failing to produce documentation on its “Rap Back” program within the allotted 20-day window granted under FISA.

During the 2016 legislative session, Hawaii lawmakers passed Act 108, a bill to require local police departments to enroll all firearm owners with registered weapons into the “Rap Back” program, which tracks criminal activity of people who hold positions of trust in society, such as teachers and daycare workers.

The NRA reports:

Under Rap Back, an authorized agency submits the fingerprints of the person to be monitored for retention into Rap Back. “This will result in an ongoing review or continuous evaluation of the criminal history status of each individual” for “as long as the individuals are appropriately subscribed to the Rap Back Service” (subject to general time limits). During that subscription timeframe, the service reports back to the authorized agency with ongoing notifications regarding arrests, warrants, or some other criminal activity being flagged in relation to that individual.

Act 108 will go into effect in June 2019, but the state has already begun collecting fees associated with the program, according to the lawsuit. Evidence suggests, however, that state lawmakers are not following their own rules and are pocketing the money instead of enrolling firearm owners in the program as promised, Andrew Roberts, director of Hawaii Firearms Coalition, told Gunpowder Magazine.

“We’re looking for clarification from the FBI over the state’s use of the program,” Roberts said.

HFC requested copies of all communications and policies shared between the state and the FBI regarding Rap Back and the state’s use of it for firearm owners. The group also requested copies of any and all receipts for payments from the state to the FBI in relation to firearm and the Rap Back service.

According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, the fees associated with the Rap Back program cover a federal background check, fingerprinting, and uploading personal information into a database that will alert local police department if people are convicted of a felony or charged with a minor crime anywhere in the U.S.
“It’s the FBI. They know the rules just as well as anyone else. So what do they have to hide?” Roberts said.

Under Hawaii law, a firearm purchaser must apply for a permit to purchase a weapon on the island and wait up to 14 days for it to be approved. The gun owner must also register the firearm with a local police jurisdiction within five days of purchasing the weapon. Failure to do so could result in a revocation of the initial permit, thereby potentially subjecting the gun owner to severe fines or jail time.

“The State of Hawaii needs to stop treating the Second Amendment like a second-class right,” Roberts said. “Our lawmakers also need to start treating those who own or wish to own firearms as the law-abiding people they are.”

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.