JEFFERSON CITY — The federal agency responsible for firearms investigations said Wednesday that it never sought or received a list of Missouri's concealed gun permit holders, rebutting an email suggesting otherwise that had inflamed concerns among Republican lawmakers.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives never was involved with — nor even aware of — an attempt by the inspector general's office of the U.S. Social Security Administration to gather data on more than 160,000 people with Missouri concealed weapons permits, bureau spokesman Mike Campbell said.
"Unequivocally, we had no part in the investigation, nor did we ever request that information," Campbell said.
His comments came after Republican state senators raised new concerns in an ongoing controversy over the state's handling of information about concealed guns.
The head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol has acknowledged that his agency twice got a list of concealed gun permit holders based on data kept by the state's driver's license agency and provided that to a federal Social Security investigator looking for potential disability fraud. The Social Security Administration has said that it was unable to open or read the computer disks and so destroyed them.
On Monday, the Highway Patrol released an email sent Jan. 23 by an employee in the Missouri Information Analysis Center to others in the Highway Patrol saying that the Social Security Administration wanted a "comprehensive list of every person who holds a concealed carry weapons permit in Missouri" as part of a "joint venture" with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Republican senators raised concerns Tuesday both about the bureau's potential involvement and the fact that they were not previously informed of it.
Campbell said Wednesday that the bureau never received a list of Missouri's concealed gun permit holders and would have no reason to ever need one.
An official at the Social Security Administration said Wednesday that the agency never provided the disk of data on Missouri permit holders to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The agency's Office of Inspector General "had no plans to involve the ATF in the disability fraud project we were considering involving Missouri concealed carry permitholders," Jonathan Lasher, the agency's assistant inspector general for external relations, said in an email.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer has spearheaded an inquiry into the way the Highway Patrol and the Department of Revenue, which produces concealed weapons identification cards, have handled data on concealed gun permit holders. He said Wednesday that the new assurances from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Social Security Administration do little to ease his concerns.
"The only thing I can assume now is either the ATF was involved or Social Security made that up for some reason," Schaefer, R-Columbia, said. "But that creates further problems if they're basically making up who's involved in the investigation and what it's for in trying to get private information by law from the Department of Revenue."
Schaefer has asked investigators from the inspector general's office of the Social Security Administration to come to Jefferson City to testify before his committee.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., said he plans to talk Thursday with Social Security Administration Inspector General Patrick O'Carroll about the request for information on Missouri concealed gun permit holders. The congressman said he spoke Wednesday with a bureau official who reiterated that it had no involvement in the request.
"According to the ATF, they believe the mention of their agency in the email in question, written by an intelligence analyst at the Missouri Information Analysis Center, was the result of the analyst's attempt to add weight to the request of an (Social Security Administration) investigator sent to the state, but that's where it ended," Luetkemeyer said in a written statement.