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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Concealed-weapon permit data: privacy vs. public interest

The News Media and the Law provided a comprehensive report on the increasing frequency of bills to close concealed-weapon permit data. Ginger Stanley of the Virginia Press Association said most legislative proposals to seal away this data can be traced back to a newspaper's use and/or publication of it. Sheriffs have had difficulty finding instances in which crimes were committed due to public access to permit data. However, there have been a slew of instances in which the data was used to inform the public when permitting failed, thereby risking the community.

It’s tough to call it a trend, exactly, when lawmakers in various states have long set their sights on sealing concealed-weapon permit data. But their efforts seem to be paying off more than ever: Since the beginning of 2008, at least seven states have considered legislation yanking permit-holder information from public files. Only one such battle looks to have yielded a complete win — for now — for open governance.

Newspapers from Oregon to Virginia, meanwhile, have inserted themselves or been thrust into the center of fiercely polarized debates over privacy, personal safety and the constitution. It was the Medford Mail Tribune’s 2007 request for the Jackson County, Ore., sheriff’s roster of local permit-holders that touched off a statewide rift between law enforcement and transparency advocates. It culminated in a legislative measure generally sealing the permits.

More here.

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