House Panel OKs Gun Record Bill

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), April 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

House Panel OKs Gun Record Bill


Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - Records on Oregonians who hold concealed handgun licenses would be kept confidential unless a county sheriff decides to make them available, under a bill passed by a House panel Wednesday.

For most of the 20 years since the 1989 law allowing Oregonians to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun was enacted, the question of whether records on those license holders should be made public was not a matter of debate.

That all changed last April, when the Jackson County Circuit Court ruled that the names of individuals who request a concealed handgun license are public records unless the individuals specify that they don't want any personal information released.

County sheriffs and concealed handgun permit holders objected to the public release of such records, leading to the crafting of House Bill 2727. Originally, it would have declared such records confidential - a move supported by gun rights groups but opposed by public records advocates, including the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

The bill was reworked to the form that won unanimous approval Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee. It adds concealed handgun license records to other exemptions in Oregon's public records law. Rather than a flat exemption, however, the bill allows that a request for the record can be made. Sheriffs, who are the custodians of handgun records, can release them if they determine there is "clear and convincing evidence that the public interest requires disclosure." Even then, the license holder could object, requiring the requester of the record to mount a legal challenge.

Kevin Starrett, executive director of Oregon Firearms Federation, a gun owners' rights group, said the newest version of the bill gives too much power to sheriffs to decide whether to publicly release handgun records.

"It was a gun owners' bill and now it's not. Now it's a sheriffs' bill," he said. "It still allows sheriffs to disclose private information if they wish to and, while most sheriffs probably won't, there are those who are politically motivated."

Committee chairman and retired police officer Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, said the bill was crafted in such a way that handgun records would rarely go public.

"It will be very clear that the intent of this bill is to provide privacy for a concealed handgun license holder," he said. …

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