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Virginia Senate bill puts pistol permits off limits
The state Senate OK’d the bill, which blocks public access to all concealed handgun permit records.
STEPHANIE KLEIN-DAVIS | The Roanoke Times
The Ashley Plantation neighborhood, with $400,000-plus homes on a golf course in Botetourt County, contains signs like these along Greenfield Street, because a convicted sex offender’s wife is building a home in the community. The husband, Calvert Anthony Thompson, has a history of sexually assaulting young women but was released from prison in June and has reconciled with his wife of 20 years. ]
Friday, February 15, 2013
RICHMOND — Virginians no longer would have access to concealed handgun permit records under legislation heading to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s desk.
The Virginia Senate on Thursday passed legislation that would bar public access to the records, which are maintained by the circuit courts that issue concealed handgun permits. Senate Bill 1335 originally was intended to shield information about permits obtained by victims of domestic violence. But the House of Delegates broadened the bill to put all concealed handgun permit records off limits, and the Senate voted 31-9 to pass the more expansive measure.
“Once SB 1335 is signed into law, law-abiding Virginians will no longer risk having their private information disclosed simply because they choose to exercise a constitutional right,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, the bill’s sponsor.
Obenshain said he was prepared for “an extended discussion” on the Senate floor Thursday. But the bill passed with no debate and with broad, bipartisan support.
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor will review the bill when he receives it.
Obenshain’s original bill was intended to keep circuit courts from disclosing concealed handgun permit records of individuals who have been granted protective orders and requested to have their records sealed. The Senate passed that version of the bill last month.
But when the bill was sent to a gun-friendly House committee, it was amended to block public access to all concealed handgun permit records. Gun rights advocates and open government groups were blindsided by the amendment and mounted a late effort to thwart the change. The House passed the bill by a vote of 76-23 on Tuesday.
Obenshain embraced the change and gun rights advocates hailed the bill’s passage as a victory for personal privacy.
“Without this statute, honest citizens are being penalized for complying with and obeying the law to obtain a CHP to carry a firearm for self-defense,” said National Rifle Association lobbyist Chuck Cunningham . “Criminals, on the other hand, are not applying for and being issued CHPs, so they have no concerns about being ‘outed’ in their local newspaper.”
Obenshain said Virginia is one of only 12 states that make concealed handgun permits a public record. Eight other states are considering legislation similar to the bill the Virginia Senate passed Thursday, according to the NRA.
New York already has passed emergency legislation to put its concealed handgun permit records off limits after a newspaper in the state published an interactive map of permit-holders on its website.
Obenshain and other Virginia legislators still take note of the uproar that occurred in 2007 when The Roanoke Times posted on its website a Virginia State Police database that revealed the identities of more than 135,000 state residents with concealed handgun permits.
The state police database later was put off limits to the public, but concealed carry permit records have remained open records in circuit courthouses around the state.
“This isn’t a gun bill. It’s a public safety bill,” said Obenshain, a candidate for attorney general. “It does not expand eligibility for a concealed handgun permit or make it easier to obtain. It simply affirms that exercising a constitutional right should not land your personal information on someone’s list with a government assist.”
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