The following post is authored by Oregon House Representative Judy Stiegler (D-Bend). Representative Stiegler worked with House and Senate members to help shepherd HB 2727, a bill to protect the privacy records of Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders from unfettered public disclosure, through the Oregon legislature. The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.
Representative Stiegler's comments are posted in their entirety without editing. The text of HB 2727 can be read here.
House Bill 2727 came to the House Committee on Judiciary in early March and eventually passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 54-4. I am not the Chief Sponsor of this piece of legislation, but I saw an opportunity to work this bill to bridge two very opposing sides of the issue. My purpose in writing this explanation is to respond to the venomous criticism which has been directed to me as a result of working on this bill. I have no problem with folks leveling criticism at me, but I do become irritated when that criticism is based on misinformation. If one is going to be the recipient of criticism for an effort, at the very least it should be factually based and the result of an honest disagreement on the issue at hand. I wholeheartedly endorse the idea that we all will not agree on many issues, and in fact welcome honest discussion of differing views. However, the criticism leveled at me on the issue of concealed handgun license records has been unfairly characterized in light of the facts set out below.
Let me be clear, I am not a gun opponent. My husband and son are hunters and guns have been part of our family’s culture. My goal was to strike a balance between the very legitimate privacy interests of law abiding citizens, concealed handgun license (CHL) holders, and Oregon’s nearly four decade history of public records laws (known as Oregon’s Sunshine Law).
As the bill was originally written, CHL records would be completely exempt from public records laws. That concept is completely antithetical to Oregon’s history of openness in government. I consulted with citizens, legislators, and interest groups to craft the strongest exemption for allowing release of CHL records, ultimately giving CHL holders the most protection possible. Under this version of the bill, when a release would be requested, there would be a very heavy burden on the requesting party to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the release was in the public interest. Usually, if a requesting party such as a newspaper did not like the denial of this request by the Sheriff (a likely result); it would then be up to the District Attorney and/or Circuit Court Judge to make the decision about the release of the records. Making the required showing would indeed be difficult to do. This is why many newspapers in Oregon blasted this protection for CHL holders. This bill provides CHL holders the ability to protect their privacy and have security in knowing, that except in rare circumstances, their information is not going to be released.
Unfortunately, in the Senate, the bill became a battleground for those on both sides of the issue-- those adamantly in favor of looser standards allowing greater access to the records, and those who tried to completely exclude them as a public record. Instead of gun owners having common sense privacy protections from passing HB 2727 this session, they will likely end up with nothing. The bill will probably remain held up in the Senate Rules Committee until the session ends. Rather than solving a problem, the legitimate concerns of the vast majority of CHL holders have been sacrificed to moving political agendas. Oregon’s Sunshine Law as it currently exists, allows unfettered access to these records with no protections.
-Judy Stiegler, Oregon House of Representative (D-Bend)
House Distritct 54