A Senate committee today approved Fireball Holland’s bill to make the list of concealed gun permit holders secret.
He said he was inspired by publication in New York of names and addresses of permit holders, complete with searchable map.
Plenty wrong with this:
* In Arkansas, names come only with ZIP codes. Good luck finding anyone with that list, save maybe the odd person who’s the sole permit holder in a ZIP code. With 130,000 permit holders, I’m guess that number is small, if not non-existent.
* These lists have been used here and elsewhere as a check on law enforcement’s spotty work on background checking. Sometimes criminal records haven’t been forwarded into the state system and thus people have gotten permits who shouldn’t have had them.
* Sometimes permit holders do bad things. I provided police with their first knowledge of two Arkansas permit holders who went astray — the doctor later convicted of conspiring to bomb a Medical Board member and a man who shot up a courthouse.
* Sometimes permit holders exhibit bad judgment. Consider the doctor who opened fire on a moving car after a possible robbery on a busy grocery store parking lot in western Little Rock. This is contrary to deadly weapon guidance of every police agency. No charges have been filed against him. They may not be. But the awareness of his status as a permit holder has allowed the public to press public officials on whether he will be charged or, at least, face suspension of his permit for taking actions contrary to public safety.
* Studies around the country have repeatedly revealed gaps in granting of permits to unqualified people.
* There’s no justification offered for giving gun owners secrecy not extended to dozens of other sorts of public records that the government maintains.
Publicly maintained records should be public, as a check on both the agency that does the work and the people who receive the privilege. That seems simple to me, if not Fireball.
But I also have to wonder: What, exactly, is it that the gun-toters fear so much? I thought guns made you safer. Doesn’t this bill suggest that knowledge of a person’s possession of a concealed carry permit makes that person less safe?
Maybe if we had a background check procedure like that used in New York, there’d be more confidence in the process.
The Arkansas Press Association reports on its effort to sidetrack the legislation: