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Should your state legislature begin looking at concealed weapons, make sure that access to the permits is not under fire.
Something will be concealed besides pistols when Missouri sheriffs begin issuing permits this month to pack hidden handguns: the names of a projected 60,000 gun licensees. Missouri's new law, enacted when the Legislature overrode Gov. Bob Holden's veto last month, bars identification of concealed weapons permit holders -- even though separate applications to sheriffs to purchase guns have been open records for years, and remain so.
The new law makes it a misdemeanor for law enforcement to disclose names of holders of concealed gun permits issued by Missouri sheriffs starting Oct. 11. An Associated Press review of the four concealed gun laws enacted this year -- in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and New Mexico -- showed that each bars public identification by name of permit holders.
Legislation was filed but not approved this year in at least two other states, Tennessee and Texas, to close currently accessible listings by name of concealed gun permit holders.
"There is no need for the public to know who has a permit," said NRA spokeswoman Kelly Hobbs. "Research has shown that the principal reason right-to-carry laws deter crime is that criminals do not know who is armed."
But what about the public's right to know who has a concealed weapon? In Missouri, the state open records law assumes as basic policy that government paperwork is public unless specifically exempted.
Dozens of good reasons for public access to concealed weapons permits leap to mind. For example, a parent wouldn't be able to find out independently whether a babysitter carried a concealed gun, or a homeowner couldn't discover whether a bothersome neighbor had a permit.
Most critically, journalists would have no way to determine whether a concealed weapon was used in a road rage incident or a school shooting. It denies the public and press any way of monitoring the issuance of concealed weapons permits.