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Thursday, December 6, 2007

FOIA Commission Proposal Would Close Concealed Handgun Permit Data

The Richmond Times Dispatch and the Roanoke Times reported on Tuesday that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Council has proposed legislation that would limit access to the list of persons that possess a Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP). Until this past March when the Roanoke Times abused the list and posted it for a day on it's web site, anyone could make a FOIA request to the Virginia State Police and obtain a copy of the list (sometimes at a small fee to cover the cost of providing the list). Some pro-gun groups and political candidates have obtained copies of the list in the past for membership campaigns and voter outreach. After the Roanoke Times incident, the Attorney General issued an opinion that caused the VSP to limit access to the list.

The FOIA Council draft legislation would prohibit the state police from releasing its database containing the identities of state residents with concealed-carry permits. Records of concealed-carry permits would remain available on a locality-by-locality basis at circuit courts, which issue the permits. The state police could continue to release statistical summaries and related data about concealed-carry permits without identifying individual permit holders.

Pro-gun Senator Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania County) said "This sort of balances the need that I think we all felt when The Roanoke Times published that database." Houck is the chairman of the advisory council.

A version of the draft legislation would have allowed political committees and candidates and nonprofit hunting and firearms groups to have access to the database, but those exemptions were struck by a council subcommittee.

No surprise - the Roanoke Times is not happy with the proposed legislation.

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