There are currently two bills before the North Carolina General Assembly that would keeping pistol purchase permit and Concealed Handgun Permit data private. They are HB 17 which deals with confidentiality and restaurant carry and SB 28 which deals strictly with confidentiality.
Two weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary II Committee held hearings on SB 28. This bill is strongly supported by both gun rights groups such as Grass Roots North Carolina and the NC Sheriffs Association. On the other side is the NC Press Association which wants to keep this data as a public record and accessible through freedom of information requests.
Below is a report on the hearing from the NCSA Weekly Legislative Report dated February 22nd.
The Charlotte Observer has noticed this fight. They published a long article on it along with an editorial opposing this bill. I will have more on that in a later post.
Gun Permit Records
The Senate Judiciary II Committee had a lively deba te this week but didn 't vote on a bill that would exempt pistol purchase permits, concealed carry permits, and pistol sales records from disclosure under the public records law. Under Senate Bill 28, the information would be available only upon request of law enforcement agencies or by court order, while exempting it from the Public Records Act. The legislation wouldn't apply to long guns and other rifles because those weapons don't require purchase permits.
The bill sponsor, Senator Stan Bingham, said th e measure was aimed at reducing gun thefts. He argued that criminals may target homes wher e they know there are guns for the taking. Gregg Stahl, Director of Government Relations for the N.C. Sheriffs' Association, told the legislative committee that sheriffs across the state have also heard from residents w ho don't own guns who fear they would be targeted for thefts as well. "The list of gun owners also tells us where there are no guns," Stahl said.
Opponents argued that they had seen no data to suggest that criminals are using public information about gun ownership to help commit crimes. John Bussian, a lobbyist for the N.C. Press Association, told the committee that he was opposing "yet another government records secrecy bill." Some of the best media reporting across the count ry on the flow of arms, he said, has been done using the types of records that the bill would exempt from the Public Records Act.
But others, including lobbyists for the N.C. Ri fle and Pistol Association and the N.C. Firearms Dealers Group, supported the bill. Michael Mann of the Rifle and Pi stol Association said he believed there was "no legitimate reason" for anyone to have access to detailed information about gun owners. Professional burglars, he said, look for items they can steal and dispose of quickly, such as cash, jewelry and guns.
As to the pistol purchase permits themselves, I'd like to see them eliminated. They are a relic of Jim Crow laws in North Carolina. The permit was instituted in 1919 and was a way to allow racist sheriffs to keep handguns out of the hands of blacks.