Thursday, February 14, 2013

Obenshain Bill to Protect Confidentiality of Concealed Carry Lists Passes

RICHMOND—Today, SB 1335, legislation patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) providing for the confidentiality of concealed carry permit lists, passed both chambers and amended, and is on its way to the Governor. Because the legislation carried a House substitute, the bill had to return to the Senate, where the substitute was adopted 31-9.

"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 Obenshain.

“When a New York newspaper published an interactive map of concealed carry permit-holders on their website, people across the country were rightly shocked,” said Obenshain. “But the truth is that, right here in Virginia, a list of the names and addresses of concealed handgun permit holders is available for the asking from any clerks’ office, and several Virginia newspapers routinely list applicants.”

“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,” Obenshain continued. “That information is still out there, freely available.”

“Freedom of information is important, and transparency in government is essential. That’s why I’ve worked to open up the budget process to closer public scrutiny and, as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring, have supported proposals to open up government records and make the work of government more transparent,” said Obenshain. “But having a concealed handgun permit shouldn’t land you on a public list.”

Virginia is one of only twelve states where a concealed carry permit is a public record, following last month’s enactment of legislation in New York protecting such lists from public disclosure. Pending Governor McDonnell's signature, Virginia will soon be joining the majority of states in providing for the confidentiality of concealed handgun permit holders. Under Senator Obenshain’s bill, the list will still be available to the clerk’s office, members of law enforcement, and other government officials entitled to access, but would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

“This isn’t a gun bill. It’s a public safety bill,” said Obenshain. “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.”

“That New York newspaper map treated law-abiding gun owners like criminals and, what’s worse, it put people in danger,” Obenshain added. He is not alone in that analysis. The editor of the Virginian-Pilot, Denis Finley, was quoted in an column appearing in that paper as stating, “I'm dead set against publishing lists of people who are engaging in perfectly legal activities and making it look like they did something wrong.”

“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. All SB 1335 does is close that loophole,” said Obenshain.

Obenshain’s previously passed on a 76-23 vote. The tally of the 31-9 vote in the Senate will soon be available at

Mark Obenshain has served in the Senate of Virginia since 2004, and is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General of Virginia.


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