Monday, June 22, 2009

Oregon House Rep Judy Stiegler on HB 2727, a bill to protect CHL holder privacy

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

8 comments:

The Different Drummer said...

This woman killed our bill. I want her off our blog. She is not a friend to gun owners. She took a bill with 44 bicameral, bipartisan cosponsors and decided it wasn't good enough, so she amended this bill to allow our sheriffs to decide when to release our private records, and now it's dead. She also destroyed our interstate chl reciprocation law. Here's a different explanation on why we have to hope our sheriffs aren't afraid of being sued to defend our rights.
http://oregonfirearms.org/alertspage/you'retheproblem.html

Zak Johnson said...

Different Drummer,
I don't see how Rep. Stiegler's efforts can be said to have killed this bill. The bill passed the House 54-to-4. Rep. Stiegler serves in the House and voted for the bill. The bill is being held up in the senate by those who think the bill is still too strong despite the amendment Rep. Stiegler added. I'm afraid I don't see the connection you're drawing; if anything the weakened bill should have had a better chance of passing the senate. I personally would have preferred a stronger bill, yes, but given the reluctance at the moment in the senate to pass the bill in its weaker form it seems improbable that the original bill would have made it as far as the altered one did.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like the results, vote out the culprits. This is the only way we get what we want.

tonyspdx

The Different Drummer said...

Maybe so.
Meanwhile there's silence in this blog on the Brady Expansion bill. There's no need for this legislation, it won't make anyone safer, and it's going to add more possibility for abuse and bureaucratic holdups for law abiding citizens attempting to purchase firearms. It's not too late to call the house ways and means committee members and tell them no.
Again, another good explanation of the issue and contact info from Oregon Firearms Federation.
http://oregonfirearms.org/alertspage/06.22.09%20alert.html

Kevin Starrett said...

Zak,

Judy killed the bill. Period. The original bill had 44 co-sponsors from both Houses and both parties. To suggest it had no chance is absurd. But a careful review of our laws will show that as changed by Stiegler, the records would be easily available. I will be happy to e-mail anyone a copy of pages from an AG's manual stating as much. Legislative Counsel has told us the same. It's ridiculous to say we need "open records" when the whole point of "open records" is so we can keep an eye on government, not so our private records are made available to "news" sources and other anti-gun groups. Why not make our tax records available? Oh wait , she voted for THAT too. See Senate Bill 690.

Steigler was the driving force behind killing CHL recognition as well. So frankly Zak, I don't really care if her husband hunts.

Jodi said...

I understand Rep. Stiegler's position, but I do not agree that Oregon's "Sunshine Law" should apply to publishing names and addresses of law abiding gun owners who have a CHL. It would be too easy for organizations who irrationally hate guns and gun owners to get hold of the list and publish it on the web. The only group who needs to know if someone has a CHL is Law Enforcement.

git r done said...

Compromise almost never pleases everyone but at least it lets people move forward on both sides.

The amendment, in particular the part about the clear and convincing burden to prove a public interest in having the information is the crux of the compromise.

What is the "public interest"?

Clearly the "public interest" is a lesser burden than required for a subpoena or court order, otherwise why the distinction?

The "public interest" decision is left with the individual Sheriff.

That means every county Sheriff in Oregon may have a differing opinion on what is in the public interest and what is clear and convincing evidence.

That by itself should be a red flag for future problems.

Sheriff's are law enforcement and should not be the arbitrator of fact as judge might.

I haven't talked to any current Sheriffs about how they would feel about making that decision. I would venture to guess there would likely be a diverse set of opinions. Hey, that's what got us here in the first place.

Personally, I would liked to see the CHL process stay in the hands of the county Sheriff's. But in the case of disclosure of records, due to clear and convincing evidence that is in the public interest, the decision should not be in the hands of the Sheriff.

The process should be such that the decision is out of the Sheriff's hands. The Sheriff should retain the right to revoke a CHL, but not the right to disclose the information based on arbitrary standards.

I would have liked to have seen an amendment which sets forth the process of obtaining CHL information outside of the Sheriff's Office.

A state process which standardizes what constitutes the public interest and establishing the burden of proof as clear and convincing evidence.

The process of disclosure should be with an existing state agency. The Attorney Generals Office would be a good choice. I only mention the AG as it is clear the intent of the amendment is to create a lower standard outside a subpoena or court order.

That sort of compromise would be far more palatable to all sides, I would think.

CHL holders and Sheriffs may go about their business. Those who advocate for transparency have one set process to navigate which is standardized.

Once the standards are set which define clear and convincing evidence and public interest then the legislative intent can be tried in court, where the final decision should lay.

Harsh words and undue criticism of anyone never makes for a good compromise, it only burns the bridges you need in the future.

Rep. Stiegler did what she needed to move the bill and be able to vote for it in the house.

Do I agree with the amendment, No.

However, it is workable.

We should be pushing for the bill to pass the senate, but only if we can be smart and savvy enough to get ahead of the game and start working with Sheriffs as to what defines "public interest" and "clear and convincing evidence".

Perhaps getting to work now with the Oregon Sheriff's Association to encourage that they work with the Oregon Attorney General in developing criteria which defines public interest and what sort of evidence is needed to reach the burden of clear and convincing.

I would really not like to see the mass disclosures of personal information of CHL holders.

However I can maybe see an argument where the public interest might be served by disclosure of an individual CHL depending on the circumstances.

Deschutes Dem said...

I supported Rep. Steigler's efforts once it became clear that the original bill was not going anywhere. Unfortunately, compromise is the name of the game in this legislature. Different Drummer is way off by stating the Steigler is not a friend to gun owners. She is and we welcome our new gun friendly democrat down here in Deschutes County.