Legislators in seven states are pushing to give confidentiality to people who have obtained permits to carry concealed handguns, in a dispute that pits gun-rights advocates against newspapers and open-government groups, reports Scripps-Howard News Service. “The press wants to put a scarlet letter on these people,” said Chris Cox, chief lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “This serves no public good. It’s potentially dangerous to post these lists.” On the other side are newspapers like the St. Petersburg Times, which urged Florida’s legislature to roll back the 2006 ban on public scrutiny of handgun permits under the headline “Guess which ones carry guns.”
Currently, 28 states make gun permits confidential, 12 states treat them as open public records and 10 states generally do not grant permits to carry concealed weapons, the NRA says. Frank Gibson of the pro-press Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said journalists have used the state database to show that state officials do “a lousy job” keeping gun permits from people with mental-health problems. “The fact that these records are public” allowed the press to prove that the Tennessee Department of Safety “was issuing permits to convicted felons.” Many lawmakers are unsympathetic to these arguments as they push bills to end public access to gun permits in Alabama, Arkansas, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.