If Missouri sheriffs begin issuing permits to pack concealed handguns, they will not release the names on the projected 60,000 people who hold them. The Associated Press reports that the new state law authorizing concealed guns bars identification of concealed weapons permit holders, even though applications to sheriffs to purchase guns have been open records for years.
The law is scheduled to take effect tomorrow, but a St. Louis judge may rule today on a request to put it on hold.
An Associated Press review of the four concealed gun laws enacted this year – in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and New Mexico – showed that each bars public identification by name of permit holders.
Gun control advocates say concealed guns boosters and the National Rifle Association press a strategy to keep the public from scrutinizing who is licensed to carry concealed weapons. “the proponents … do not want to have news stories that a permit holder pulled a gun and shot someone. The improper use of concealed weapons is the strongest argument we have against these laws,” said Luis Tolley of the gun-control group the Brady Campaign.
“There is no need for the public to know who has a permit,” counters NRA spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs. “Research has shown that the principal reason right-to-carry laws deter crime is that criminals do not know who is armed.”
Republican state Rep. Larry Crawford said the records closure was put into the concealed gun law because of “concerns that publicizing who has a license could lead to those people being targeted for theft of their guns.”
Charles Davis of the Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia, called the reasons for closing the concealed gun permit lists “ludicrous.” He noted that a parent would not be able to find out independently whether a baby sitter carried a concealed gun, or a homeowner could not learn whether a bothersome neighbor had a permit. He said news organizations would be unable serve the public because they would be unable to report on criminal actions by hidden handgun licensees. “This is bad public policy on so many levels that it boggles the mind. What the legislators have essentially done is allow government only to have that data, so therefore the public has no way to answer any questions about the holders of these permits,” Davis said. “This essentially says there is no public interest in knowing who has concealed weapons permits, and I would disagree fundamentally with that.”
The Missouri Press Association, which represents the state’s daily and weekly newspapers, objects to the closed records and will seek to get the records opened next year.