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Monday, April 9, 2007

Virginia State Police Restrict Access to CHP List

Gun owners in Virginia know that a few weeks ago, an anti-gun and left-wing editor at the Roanoke Times had the not-so-bright idea to publish the list of concealed handgun permit (CHP) holders, including their addresses, on the Roanoke Times web page. This cause well deserved outrage among gun owners and CHP holders and the RT was forced to remove the list the day after they posted it. The RT claimed citizens had a right to know whom in their communities might have a CHP and because the information was public information under the Freedom of Information Act, the RT was well within their rights to publish the information.

Well, thanks to pro-gun Delegate Dave Nutter's request for an advisory opinion by Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell(R), the Virginia State Police decided to suspend public access to its concealed carry permit database. The Attorney General's opinion stated that the concealed carry database was assembled solely for investigative purposes and, therefore, it is exempted from the Commonwealth’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that requires public access to certain documents.

The on-going debate over public access to the concealed carry permit database was heightened last month when The Roanoke Times newspaper posted to its website a searchable database containing the names and addresses of more than 135,000 concealed weapon permit holders. Attorney General McDonnell’s opinion states, “The release of such personal information of a crime victim or witness potentially jeopardizes his safety and privacy, as well as the safety of the community in which he lives.” While the advisory opinion does not have the weight and effect of law, the VA State Police are considering it as advice from the state’s chief law enforcement officer.

Meanwhile, the state’s Freedom on Information Advisory Council is continuing its study of the issue, and Delegate Nutter is already planning on introducing legislation for the 2008 General Assembly session that will effectively convert the Attorney General’s opinion into law. VSSA is working with members of the Council and will keep members posted on the progress as information is available.

You can read more about the Attorney General's opinion here.

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