Monday, February 23, 2009

Of guns and open records

I love it when two important competing values run into each other at full throttle. It forces me to take a stand.

The Oregon legislature, with encouragement from sheriff’s across the state, is moving to close records of who has a concealed handgun carry permit. Journalists and other advocates of open records are crying foul.

They argue that such records should be open, that the public has a right to know who has a permit to carry.

Privacy rights advocates and gun owner lobbies say it’s nobody’s business and opening the records could actually detract from the security of the people who get carry permits for protection.

I am philosophically and professionally inclined to side with the open records folks. I believe in sunshine, that actions of public agencies should be transparent to public scrutiny.

Yet I am also a believer in a broad private sphere, that individuals should have the widest possible latitude to conduct their lives as they see fit.

On this one, I come down on the side of privacy. The issuing agencies — sheriff’s departments — are obligated to issue a carry permit as long as a person qualifies. The government action here is merely affirming a right presumed to exist.

The right to carry belongs to the individual and is his or her choice in the private conduct of his or her life. Such an action doesn’t require the kind of scrutiny that, say, the actions of the city council or school board might.

What they do is our business because they work for us. Not so in the case of the carry permit holder.

Arguments that say you should have a right to know whether or not your strange-acting neighbor is armed are just bogus. If your neighbor is whacky enough to consider him dangerous, you should consider him dangerous regardless. It’s also doubtful that he’s gone to the trouble to obtain a carry permit.

Concealed carry is a private act, lawful and appropriate for those who choose it and they should be left alone, without prying eyes of those with axes to grind.

Public officials and agencies should have their actions subject to public scrutiny; private individuals should not.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. Jim - well stated argument

  2. Everyone has the right to bear arms. You should just assume that everyone is packing.

  3. Some time back there was a scandal when it was discovered folks could access DMV records, some of this access being used for commercial purposes...that was put a stop to and for obvious reasons.

    Personal information about law enforcement officers is likewise protected information, for obvious reasons.

    Information regarding CCW holders has been the subject of debate before this. It remains, as it should, protected information and for obvious reasons.

    Oregon law and Oregon's Sheriffs do a wonderful job regarding CCW qualificaiton, issue, monitoring, and revocation if such becomes necessary.

    Thanks for airing the issue in a positive tone and manner.