Gun law to bar names from public records

Tuesday, October 7, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:12 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Missouri’s new concealed-gun law prohibits law enforcement from releasing the names of people with permits to carry hidden handguns, and Boone County Sheriff Ted Boehm doesn’t like it.

“This is completely opposite of other laws that are on the books,” Boehm said. “If they’re going to open one up for public record, they need to open them all.”

Boehm was referring to a long-standing law that for years has left open to public scrutiny the lists of people who apply for permits to simply buy handguns. But the new concealed-gun law, which takes effect Saturday, protects the identity of those who hold permits to carry a concealed gun by making it a misdemeanor for law enforcement to reveal the names of conceal-and-carry permit holders.

State Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown, said the closed-record provision is included in the concealed-gun law because of “concerns that publicizing who has a license could lead to those people being targeted for theft of their guns.”

Public should know who carries concealed weapons, some say

Luis Tolley, spokesman for the Brady Campaign, a leading gun control group, explained that advocates of the law are trying to prevent the public from learning who is licensed to carry hidden guns.

“It’s simple: The proponents of concealed-carry do not want to have news stories that a permit holder pulled a gun and shot someone. The improper use of concealed weapons is the strongest argument we have against these laws,” Tolley said.

Charles Davis, executive director of the Freedom of Information Center at MU, believes the public has a right to know who carries concealed gun permits. A homeowner concerned about a bothersome neighbor, or parents wondering whether a baby-sitter is carrying a gun, he said, are examples.

“What legislators have essentially done is allow government only to have that data, so therefore the public has no way to answer any questions about the holder of these permits,” Davis said. “This essentially says there is no public interest in knowing who has concealed weapons permits, and I would disagree fundamentally with that.”

Advocates say privacy prevents gun theft

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs explained that there is no reason to release the names of permit holders. Doing that, she said, would encourage gun theft.

“There is no need for the public to know who has a permit,” she said. “Research has shown that the principal reason right-to-carry laws deter crime is that criminals do not know who is armed.”

Police still worried

But Boehm and other local law enforcement officials disagree.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Stubbs said. “If you’re going to carry one, why shouldn’t it be public information?”

Police Chief Randy Boehm added his concern. “It seems to be a good idea to make these records public,” he said.

Randy Boehm said closing the list of conceal-and-carry permit holders is more of a public issue than an issue of law enforcement. Officers will have access to the names, he said, and will be able to cross-check people under investigation for other matters to see if they have permits for hidden weapons.

The new provision could, however, present problems for officers on the job, Randy Boehm said. During a traffic stop, for example, an officer might be uncomfortable if he believes a suspect has a concealed gun but the person claims otherwise or fails to produce a permit. Boehm, however, noted that officers are trained to approach every vehicle as if a weapon is inside.

Ted Boehm said he doesn’t understand how the closed-record provision passed. “We need to start talking to people with common sense,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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