Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Oregon House Passes CHL Privacy Bill - HB 2727

By a margin of 54-to-4, the Oregon House of Representatives has passed HB 2727, a bill to protect public disclosure of the names, addresses and other personal information of concealed handgun license (CHL) holders to the public; that is, the bill keeps it a secret who does and does not have a license to carry a concealed weapon and provides county sheriffs with a legal basis to deny requests for that information.

In this age where the definition of a "journalist" is increasingly fluid and the Internet can be used and abused to quickly and irrevocably spread private data around the world, it is important that government take steps to protect us from intrusion. Protecting CHL holder privacy has become an important civil rights battle since February when a Tennessee online newspaper opposed to all 2nd Amendment rights published the names, phone numbers, addresses and other personal information of CHL holders in that state. Exposing CHL holder information to the public puts those who follow the law by obtaining a permit before carrying a concealed firearm to discrimination from anti-2nd Amendment employers, background searches by would-be stalkers wanting to know if there victims are helpless, and targeting by burglars looking for firearms to grab while residents are away from home. Keeping personal information in government databases private is also the right thing to do as a matter of principle.

No laws in Oregon previously existed to prohibit similarly invasive and dangerous practices in our state as were seen in Tennessee. However, in recent court cases, county sheriffs have refused to hand over information in the name of privacy and public safety concerns. HB 2727 is not perfect, and has a wide loop hole in it to allow disclosure of the data if there is "clear and convincing evidence that the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance." However, HB 2727 is a step forward from where we were before. (Other views on HB 2727 are available on the Oregon Firearms Federation website and the Oregonian.)

The bill now moves on to the Oregon senate. The concept of protecting CHL holder privacy as a civil right was endorsed by the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, the Gun Owners Caucus of the Democratic Party of Oregon, and the Multnomah County Democratic Party.

Please contact your Oregon state senators and remind them of the broad public support to protect the rights of lawful gun owners, public safety and the privacy of us all. HB 2727 is a step in the right direction on all counts.

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