Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson is suing the state Attorney General’s Office over what it sees as an exorbitant amount of fees for public records related to firearms issues.

The AG’s office wanted as much as $27,000 for the records requested by the gun manufacturer and said it would take attorneys hundreds of hours to complete the request, the company says in a civil lawsuit filed Monday. The lawsuit says Smith & Wesson filed similar records requests in other states, but has not faced the same barriers to access.

“It appears to the client and it appears to us that the amount of time the state is claiming, and therefore the amount of fees, is an effort to discourage the public records request,” attorney Jeff Portnoy, who is representing Smith & Wesson, said.

In 2020, a third-party agency called Cogency Global filed three records requests on behalf of Smith & Wesson. The first request asked for communications between the department and the Firearms Accountability Counsel Task Force, a coalition of law firms that seek to prevent gun violence.

Security Equipment Corp. sales clerk Russ Tengan holds a Smith and Wesson 1911 pistol. The gun company has been frustrated in its efforts to get public records from the state. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

The company also requested a handful of requests for proposals that the AG’s office issued related to firearms issues. The third request was for a log of all records requests made to the AG’s office.

The AG’s office denied some of those records, claiming that disclosure would frustrate a legitimate government function, according to the lawsuit. For the records that could be released, the AG’s office wanted nearly $23,000.

The office said it needed hundreds of hours to review and segregate those records. For just the RFP request, it charged Smith & Wesson $2.50 for every 15 minutes spent searching for records and $5 for every 15 minutes spent reviewing those documents.

The AG’s office asked for half of the total fees, about $12,000, before the records could be released.

In July 2021, the gun company sent a second, narrower request in an effort to reduce costs. Instead, the AG’s office set a higher estimate of $27,000 to search for the records and review them.

Portnoy said the company wants the state to provide a realistic number for the actual amount of time it would take the AG’s office to fill the records request.

“In Smith & Wesson’s view, what the state is trying to do is discourage the production (of documents),” Portnoy said.

The gun manufacturer says in the lawsuit that it believes the AG’s refusal to disclose records is politically motivated. Hawaii has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, and companies like Smith & Wesson have challenged those laws in other states in the past.

In December, Smith & Wesson joined a lawsuit seeking to overturn a New York law that would allow victims of gun violence to sue the gun industry. The company is also fighting a probe from the state of New Jersey seeking internal documents.

Portnoy said he is not authorized to talk about what leads the company to believe the records request denials are politically motivated. He said he has not been made aware of what exactly the company wants the documents for.

The AG’s office had not yet received the lawsuit on Tuesday. A spokesman said the department would respond to the complaint once it does.

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