JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri sheriffs said Friday that they stand ready to issue identification cards for concealed gun permit holders, if legislators who want to transfer the duties from the state driver's license bureau are willing to help sheriffs pay for the necessary equipment.
Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that privacy rights are being infringed upon by the way the Department of Revenue gathers, stores and disseminates data about driver's license applicants who are authorized to carry concealed guns.
Under Missouri law, local sheriffs already are responsible for taking applications for concealed gun permits, gathering background information and issuing a certificate. The applicants then take that paper to a driver's license office, where their photo is taken for an identification card. People also can chose to have the concealed carry endorsement printed on their driver's licenses, much like an organ donor stamp.
Most concealed gun permit holders opt to keep their information off their driver's licenses. As of March 21, Missouri had issued 174,450 state identification cards with concealed gun endorsements and 4,404 driver's licenses with concealed gun stamps, according to figures supplied Friday by the Department of Revenue.
"We're doing everything except printing the card out right now," said Mick Covington, executive director of the Missouri Sheriffs' Association. "We would be willing to move in that direction. Of course, there would probably be some costs associated with that."
Under the Missouri Constitution, the state cannot impose unfunded mandates on local governments.
Covington said sheriffs likely would need some money from the state to pay for equipment such as printers and cameras.
A bill recently endorsed by a House committee would give sheriffs the duty of issuing concealed gun permits that included a photograph along with date of birth, height, weight, hair and eye color, and signature. The legislation would allow sheriffs to charge a $100 fee to applicants for a concealed gun permit and a $10 fee to people either renewing a permit or converting a current state-issued card to one issued by a sheriff.
Under current Missouri law, sheriffs can charge people up to $100 to apply for a concealed weapons permit and $50 to renew it.
A separate bill given initial approval this week in the Senate also would transfer the duties of issuing concealed gun permits from the Revenue Department to local sheriffs, but would not require sheriffs to make photo identification cards. Instead, sheriffs would issue permits listing a person's name, address, birthdate, gender, height, weight, eye and hair color and signature.
The Revenue Department recently began keeping electronic copies of concealed carry papers supplied by sheriffs and submitted by applicants in order to obtain state identification cards. That prompted legislative hearings during which the head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol acknowledged that the agency has twice obtained a list of concealed gun permit holders compiled by the Revenue Department and shared it with a federal investigator looking into Social Security benefits fraud.
Republican lawmakers have denounced that as an invasion of privacy that may also violate a state law making it a misdemeanor to disclose confidential information about concealed gun permit holders. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's administration has defended the data sharing as a legal exchange of information among law enforcement agencies.
Henry County Sheriff J. Kent Oberkrom, who is president of the state sheriffs' association, said in a written statement Friday that Missouri sheriffs "share in the concerns" of state lawmakers "about the release of carry conceal weapons permit holders personal information." Oberkrom's statement said sheriffs are willing to work with lawmakers on new policies that would better safeguard the personal information of concealed weapons permit holders.