Should concealed-gun information be public?
State to consider access to concealed weapon permits
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
Date published: 3/20/2007
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--A state committee will study whether concealed weapon permit information should remain public record after a Roanoke newspaper ignited controversy by posting on the Internet a list of permit holders.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Committee yesterday decided to appoint a subcommittee to investigate the issue over the next few months.
The controversy started just last week when the Roanoke Times published, on its Web site, a list of all concealed-weapon permit holders in the state.
The list came from the state police, which is required by law to maintain that list, but the information is also subject to the Freedom of Information Act and is public record.
After numerous furious e-mails and phone calls from the public, the Roanoke Times took the list off its Web site. But Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania County, said he was already getting calls and e-mails, particularly from other state legislators, who want to consider changing the law.
"There's a clash here between personal, private information and the public's right to know," Houck said after the FOIA council meeting yesterday. "It's a hot topic right now and a lot of people are very anxious about it. It's opened up all types of other issues."
Few people came to speak at the council's meeting yesterday, although Del. Dave Nutter, R-Christiansburg, spoke and said he has requested an opinion from the attorney general on the issue.
Jim Kadison of the Virginia Citizens Defense League--a gun-rights organization--said his group is concerned about "possible abuse" of the list. He suggested creating a list of permit-holders for police and then a separate, public one that permit holders could opt off of.
Houck, who chairs the council, said he will also chair the subcommittee that will study this issue. He is worried that the issue may open the door to those who would like to see Virginia eliminate its permit requirement for a concealed weapon altogether, and said he wants to keep the focus on the public information issue.
However, Houck said, he also thinks consistency is important, and he pointed out that the rules governing the openness of concealed carry permits is no different than the rules governing other state permits--like doctor's licenses.
The Free Lance-Star periodically publishes the names of Fredericksburg area permit holders when the permits are issued.
The entire FOIA council will meet again in June.
Chelyen Davis: 804/782-9362