Protecting privacy in Oregon

I’m pleased to see that there’s a movement afoot in Oregon to protect the privacy of people who obtain firearm carry permits.

And as the appeals court mulls the issue, Oregon lawmakers are pursuing legislation to take those records completely out of public view by prohibiting their release under the Oregon public records law.

The bill to close those records has broad support, with half of the members of the Legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, signing on as co-sponsors.

That sounds like a good deal of support. Better yet, many Oregon sheriffs are apparently behind the measure.

Sheriffs around Oregon have been sending an unusual letter to holders of concealed weapons permits with this message: If you don’t want the public to know you’ve got a permit, we’ll try to help you out.

The letter from the sheriffs says newspapers and others are trying to get lists of people who have concealed handgun permits, sparking a legal challenge that’s pending in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

As always, of course, there are some who believe the rights of gun owners should not be given heed.

Open government advocates say, however, that those records have always been public and that Oregonians should have the right to check to see who is getting concealed weapons permits from local sheriffs.

“Let’s say you have a neighbor who is acting irrationally, and maybe even threatening you. Shouldn’t you be able to find out if he has a concealed weapons permit?” said Judson Randall, president of Open Oregon and a former senior editor at The Oregonian.

Well, Judson, if you have an irrational neighbor threatening you, and you find out that he does not have a carry permit, would that lead you to believe you were any safer? Do you really believe that a violent, deranged neighbor with designs on violence against you would be deterred by the fact that carrying the potential murder weapon (concealed) would be illegal?

Tim Gleason, dean of the University of Oregon School of Journalism, is another who opposes gun owners’ privacy.

“What is the privacy interest in this case? What abuse has occurred as a result of these records being open?” said Tim Gleason, dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism.

Those records should remain open as a practical safety matter, Gleason added.

“What if you’re an abuse victim, and you want to know if the person who’s abusing you is carrying a concealed weapon?” he said. “That seems like a legitimate question to ask.”

I have already pointed out that finding out that a potential attacker cannot legally carry a concealed firearm is hardly a reliable indicator that he would not do so anyway. The better question, though, is “what if you’re an abuser, and you want to know if the person who you’re abusing is carrying a concealed weapon?” That seems like information an abuser or stalker would like to have–and information that he should be denied.

In the end, this would seem to be just one more argument, if one were needed, for doing away entirely with licensing a Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right.

The bill in question is Oregon House Bill 2727

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