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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Governor McDonnell Signs Concealed Carry Permit Holder Privacy Bill

Earlier today, Governor McDonnell signed Senator Mark Obenshain's Concealed Carry Confidentiality bill (SB 1335) into law. Now that SB 1335 has been signed, law-abiding Virginians will no longer risk having their private information disclosed simply because they choose to exercise a constitutional right.

It is well known what happened when a New York newspaper published an interactive map of concealed carry permit-holders on their website: criminals used it to their advantage and law-abiding gun owners were harassed. But what’s even more disturbing is that these lists sometimes disclose the new addresses of victims of domestic violence and others who have a very good reason not to want their contact information in public view.

The problem wasn’t limited to New York. Prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 1335, a list of the names and addresses of concealed handgun permit holders has been, and will be until July 1, available for the asking from any clerks’ office. 

In 2007, the Roanoke Times published a database containing the names and addresses of all concealed carry permit holders in Virginia, later pulled when they realized that they had inadvertently disclosed the new addresses of victims of domestic violence who owned firearms for their own protection. The Fredericksburg Free Lance Star continues to publish the name of individuals issued a CHP in the paper's circulation area.

With the enactment of this legislation, Virginia will join the majority of states in providing for the confidentiality of concealed handgun permit holders. The list will still be available to clerks’ offices, members of law enforcement, and other government officials entitled to access, but the list will no longer be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

This isn’t a gun bill; it’s a public safety bill. The patron worked with the Virginia Court Clerks’ Association, and with clerks across the Commonwealth, on this important bill.

That New York newspaper treated law-abiding gun owners like criminals and, what’s worse, it put people in danger. That shouldn’t be allowed to happen here in Virginia – and with the enactment of SB1335, it can’t anymore.

When Tim Kaine was Governor, he signed a bill sealing these records with the State Police, but that legislation did not address clerks’ offices, which also have copies of these records. Senate Bill 1335 closes that loophole, and VSSA thanks Governor McDonnell for signing this bill into law. His action is good news for all Virginians, but especially Virginia concealed handgun permit holders, some of which are victims of domestic violence who should not have to worry if their abusers have access to their address and other personal information.

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