Captain Michael Dahl went too far.
He was trying to solve a crime, but his approach came across as intrusive and heavy-handed. It stoked the fears of a government ignoring the Second Amendment and creating a list of gun owners to beware of.
The Washington State Patrol trooper is part of the Criminal Investigations Unit in Kent. He is working to locate a "missing/stolen" AR-15 assault rifle.
Every gun owner is happy to know the state patrol works hard to find stolen property.
But Dahl's approach seems unusual and gained the attention of Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley.
The trooper sent a letter asking stores selling guns to provide "any and all documents/lists of" AR-15 sales from July 1, 2010, to present, sales of lower receivers, company purchases of AR-15s and "any and all names, dates, births, addresses, phone numbers, date of transaction and serial number from the purchaser."If you oppose gun ownership, you might think this is acceptable or a good idea. If you are at the other end of the spectrum, this is offensive and a threat to personal freedoms. If you are in the middle, you might wonder why the state patrol officer wants all of the information for a single missing rifle. After all, guns are stolen every day in our state without this much of a response.
The problem is how the letter goes beyond the investigation of a "missing/stolen" firearm.
"It is my understanding this is only a formal request, but [sic] there is no legal requirement to reply," stated Shea. "I'm very concerned with this apparent overreach at the Washington State Patrol."
He has a point. We can't remember the last time a police officer needed all the personal information on car owners just to find a "missing/stolen" Honda Accord. Then there is the question of why he needs all of the information on people legally purchasing the rifles. Process of elimination?
We trust the Washington State Patrol. They work hard to keep us safe everyday and are a vital part of law enforcement.
But this letter is a problem that could damage their reputation and credibility if they try to defend it.
We hope this was the honest mistake of a passionate trooper who chose the wrong idea in trying to locate a "missing/stolen" rifle.
One that went too far.
- Editorial board