Arkansas Senate passes bill to make gun-permit records private

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas Wed Feb 6, 2013 9:51pm EST

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - The Republican-controlled Arkansas state Senate approved a bill on Wednesday that would exempt from public disclosure the names and zip codes of gun owners, those with permits to carry concealed guns and permit applicants.

The bill comes in response to the controversy late last year over a New York newspaper's decision to publish the names and addresses of thousands of gun permit holders on its website after a shooting rampage at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school that killed 20 children and six adults.

The Journal News, which serves suburbs just north of New York City in Westchester and Rockland counties, pulled the information from its site last month.

The Arkansas bill, which passed the Senate 24-9, now moves to the state House of Representatives, which is also controlled by Republicans. Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, has said he opposes the bill because it restricts the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Republican state Senator Bruce Holland, the bill's sponsor, said he introduced the legislation after a constituent contacted him with concerns about the Journal News' actions.

In January, New York included a similar provision when it passed a sweeping gun control and mental health law in response to the Newtown massacre. Kansas, Oregon, South Carolina and Kentucky have similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"You lose the element of surprise when criminals potentially have access to a public database of known gun owners," said Nicholas Stehle, a member of the board of directors of the advocacy group Arkansas Carry.

Names and zip codes are "more information than I'd be comfortable sharing if I were a single woman with an abusive ex-husband," he said.

In 2009, a similar push was made in Arkansas to restrict all information about gun owners. Lawmakers reached a compromise to release only the names and zip codes under the state's Freedom of Information Act. Beebe signed that bill into law.

Tres Williams, communications director for the Arkansas Press Association, said the matter was not about guns but freedom of information.

"It is unnecessary and it voids the compromise from the 2009 General Assembly where we came up with how to deal with personal privacy and open government," Williams said. "We will continue to fight this bill."

Arkansas lawmakers are considering several gun-related bills. Earlier this week, the House approved a bill to allow concealed gun permit-holders to take their weapons into churches. The Senate had already passed that measure and the governor is expected to sign it into law.

(Editing by Edith Honan, Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (4)
Speaker2 wrote:
Chuckle, praise the lord, pass the ammo, members of the senate must of came from a small gene pool.

Feb 06, 2013 9:52pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ChicagoFats wrote:
I don’t know that the public (the press, let’s be real here) has a right to any and all information. HIPAA is there to protect medical records. Imagine a newspaper publishing the names of people who are under treatment for depression, bipolar, anxiety, PTSD, schizophrenia, you name it. You’d be hard pressed to make the argument that these people are a menace to society, especially since they’re under treatment. In the same vein, people who have concealed carry permits or who have applied for one or who just legally own guns are not lawbreakers because of that fact.

So I don’t really see a problem with what Arkansas is trying to do. It looks like gun nut paranoia at first glance but if you read what the bill addresses it’s a welcome protection for citizens engaging in legal activity. It does not shield the bad guys. Everybody take a deep breath and calm down.

Feb 07, 2013 12:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
mikefromaz wrote:
It’s amazing how fast the staff of the Journal news became upset when one of their readers posted the names and addresses of the company employees. This whole story which obviously took on a life of its own is what happens when any news entity tries to become the news instead of reporting the news. Of course the TV networks couldn’t resist the smell of ratings, so snarky “news” commentators lined up to take pot-shots at the guy who had the “gall” to post the employees info. The bottom line? By trying to steal the tragedy for their own profit, the Newspaper, and TV wonks seriously disrespected the families of those who lost loved ones in the Newtown massacre.

Feb 07, 2013 6:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
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