NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny is advancing in the Legislature.
The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 8-0 on Tuesday and is headed for a vote by the full Senate. The companion bill was approved 84-10 in the House last month.
Both versions of the bill would allow for the media and Safety Department to confirm whether someone who had run afoul of the law was a permit holder, but only by providing a legal document or other record “that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a handgun carry permit.”
The legislation doesn’t create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An effort to seal Tennessee’s handgun carry permit records from public scrutiny would create an exception for political operatives and lobbying groups to still obtain the entire set of names and addresses.
Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin told the Senate Judiciary Committee this week that his bill is an effort to block the publication of handgun carry permit records on newspaper websites.
“We’re not trying to keep it where it’s not usable, but we want to keep it from being published,” he said.
Political operatives and advocacy groups want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of all 398,000 handgun carry permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.
Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said he ran into similar issues when he tried to pass similar legislation years ago.
“My biggest resistance came from members of my own party for this provision, who wanted to continue using it for political purposes,” he said.
The state House overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday night that makes secret virtually all information about Tennessee handgun-carry permit holders except non-identifying statical reports, reports Richard Locker. If the Senate also approves the bill, individuals and media organizations would be unable to identify any of the 370,000 Tennessee residents with the state-issued licenses to carry guns in public. In the previous four years, lawmakers have been expanding the number of public places where permit holders may legally carry guns, including public parks and bars and restaurants serving alcohol.
A bill that passed last month allows permit holders to keep their guns in their cars on virtually any public and private parking lot — including at schools and college campuses — despite the property owner’s objections. One of the arguments advanced by the legislators who sponsored the guns-in-parking lots bill was that employers and others could still determine if their employees have permits to go armed because the permit database is public record. That would no longer be the case with the bill approved by the House Monday.
The bill, House Bill 9, declares that all information and records relating to handgun-carry permits “are confidential, not open or available for public inspection and shall not be released in any manner” except to law enforcement agencies specifically investigating an individual with a permit. It also makes confidential any information regarding the suspension or revocation of a permit.
Before approving the bill 84-10, the House added an amendment recommended by a committee that would allow any person or entity to ask the state Department of Safety to search its permit-holder database to determine if a specific person has a permit as of that date, but only if the requester presents an official government document indicating the named person is not eligible to possess a permit. That would include a court judgment of the individual’s conviction of a crime that makes the person ineligible, a criminal history report, or an order of protection.
Such limitations would prohibit the state from publicly confirming an individual charged with a violent crime, including murder, is licensed to go armed. In fact, the push by gun advocates for closing public access to permit holders’ identities began in early 2009 when real estate investor Harry Ray Coleman was publicly identified as a permit holder when he shot Robert Schwerin Jr. to death during an argument outside a Cordova restaurant.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A National Rifle Association-backed effort to block public access to handgun carry permits goes too far for Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, one of the top gun rights advocates in the Tennessee General Assembly.
Ramsey told The Associated Press that the ability to scrutinize the identities of people with handgun carry permits strengthens arguments that gun enthusiasts are worthy of carrying loaded firearms in public.
“Having the handgun carry records open actually helps the cause of the Second Amendment,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Because people can go look at those and realize that they truly are law-abiding citizens.”
Ramsey added, “I encourage people like the press to look through these to figure out whether there’s something we’re missing. When you don’t shine light on something, that’s when problems are caused.”
Ramsey’s position conflicts with NRA, which has long called for sealing the records so the public and news media cannot see who has the state-issued permits.
“Members of the media have no business possessing personal information of Tennesseans with handgun carry permits,” NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford said in an email.