Monday, August 3, 2009

Privacy of CCW records

From Buckeye Firearms Association, on the ongoing fight to secure confidentiality of CCW records:
As the fight to restore the right to bear arms for self-defense was waged in various states, one of the toughest opponents to attempts to reform the law was the establishment media. With rare exception, newspaper editorial boards repeatedly took the side of legislators and gun ban extremists who prefer to view citizens more as subjects.

Thanks in no small part to media meddling, many states' laws were first passed with onerous provisions (anti-gun poison pills) that pro-gun rights activists are now methodically laboring to remove.

One of the more common items inserted as a poison pill in many states under pressure from the establishment media was a public records provision. "We have to make sure," the editorial boards claimed, "that the 'right' people are getting licenses." But in the months and years after concealed carry laws took effect, it quickly became clear the media had far less noble intentions.

Instead of reporting, each time an armed robbery, home invasion, or car-jacking occurred, that the violent attacker did NOT have a license to carry, the news media set about to publish lists containing the private, personal information of license-holders, not unlike the state publishes records about registered sex offenders.

In my home state of Ohio, the Cleveland Plain Dealer was one of many news entities to obtain and publish a list of licensees after prodding from the Ohio Newspaper Association. Just a few days after the first list was published, one of the license-holders on that list - a Cleveland store-owner - was dead, having been ambushed by violent armed robbers as he came to work one morning.[1] Many wondered why the criminals knew they needed to get the jump on the store-owner. Had they read his name in the newspaper?

Other early problems with Ohio's concealed carry law, which was written to specifically declare the records of license-holders private, and then to allow journalists access to the "private" records, included the sheriffs in at least two counties releasing private information beyond that enumerated in the media access loophole[2]. Additionally, at least one license-holder's guns were stolen from his home after having his status as a gun owner published in the newspaper[3], and a prison guard was tracked down by a former inmate by using a list published in the local paper.[4]

Gun rights activists fought back. In the case of the Plain Dealer and Sandusky Register, editors had their own information - truly public information - compiled and published on pro-gun websites such as Telephone numbers, maps to their homes, deeds to houses, and even divorce records were displayed as examples of how such records could be used against individuals or family members who found themselves on lists such as the ones the newspapers were creating.[5]

In the end, two years after the media access loophole was inserted as a poison pill in Ohio's concealed carry law, Buckeye state legislators reformed the law, making it illegal for journalists to copy the records.[6]

Battles over concealed carry confidentiality are currently ongoing in at least ten other states across the country. ...

Read the rest here. The gun rights community has been making steady progress on protecting permit holders privacy. As more and more people get concealed carry permits, the base of voters interested in keeping their personal information private grows. As such, I expect that these small victories will continue to accrue.

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