No-Reveal Gun Bill Passes, Unpasses

Yesterday, in a meeting of the House Criminal Practice Subcommittee, a proposal (HB3137) to make confidential the names and addresses of Tennesseans who have handgun carry permits (and make publishing such information a Class E felony misdemeanor) was approved without debate.

Then, recalled.
Then, banished from consideration until 2012.

Freshman House member Rep. Henry Fincher called the bill up for a vote while two members of the committee who opposed the idea, Rob Briley and Janis Sontany, were out of the room.

House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh later arrived at the meeting from the swearing-in ceremony for Rep. Karen Camper, a Democrat recently appointed to fill a vacant House seat from Shelby County.

With Camper’s help, Naifeh reversed the vote. The end result: The names and addresses of permit holders will remain public for now.

I am somewhat relieved, since on the same date the Attorney General weighed in on the constitutionality of the bill (as requested by Rep. Sotany.)

According to the AG:

“It is unlikely that a person could mount a successful facial challenge against HB 3137. It is unlikely that a challenger could meet the burden of showing that it is unconstitutional under any circumstances to make permit files confidential. Deciding which records are exempt from public disclosure is a matter of legislative prerogative.

[…]

That prerogative includes the authority to determine whether disclosure of certain types of information is a crime and how it should be punished. The legislature has enacted other statutes that impose criminal penalties for the disclosure of confidential information. For example, Tenn. Code Ann § 36-1-125 states that unauthorized disclosure of adoption records is a Class A misdemeanor. Section 40-32-104 states that public disclosure of expunged criminal records is a Class A misdemeanor, and § 37-1-154 states that unauthorized disclosure of law enforcement records of investigations of juveniles is punishable as criminal contempt.

Err, let me see if I’ve gotten this straight.

I could reveal that someone’s Mama isn’t their real Mama, and I’d pay a hefty fine and pull 11/29 in the county jail – though I cannot imagine why anyone would do this unless they worked for the Enquirer and discovered that Britney Spears’ real mother was Carol Doda.

I could reveal the history of an Title 40 offender, I’m fined and spend 11/29 in the local facilities? (If offender were a former thief now running for public office, this is absolutely something I’d reveal. Rarely, are you provided the opportunity to prove politicians are crooked before they get into office, so this might be worth a few weekends of bologna sandwiches at the county clink. )

Likewise, if you intentionally disclose or disseminate to the public the files and records of a juvenile including the child’s name and address, $50 and 10 days? Unless of course, the child has committed an excessively violent crime: but if they, you know, just eat the neighbors dog, you can’t reveal names.

Now the state wants to make revealing the name of a gun owner a Class E felony, such as punishable w/ 2-12 years in prison and a fine of $3,000? I’d be a first time offender, so I’d only serve 20% – but still. This is real prison… right? I’m almost certain they don’t allow cell phones and beer in there. So, I’d die. (UPDATE: According to the subcommittee video, this would have been amended to a misdemeanor.)

Still doesn’t this seem a bit much?

I do not agree the records should be off limits. There are some situations when accessing them might be necessary or useful. (How would journalists determine if a concealed weapon was used in a school shooting or other incident? How would you monitor the issuance of the permits?)

On the other hand, I don’t think these records should be published just for kicks – although to my understanding, they were.

So this is – abuse a priviledge and it’s taken away? In which case, if closing records is punishment for naughty journalists: could you guys do the rest of the class a favor and print responsibly?

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4 thoughts on “No-Reveal Gun Bill Passes, Unpasses

  1. Pingback: Hobbs Opposes Newspapers’ Right to Post His Junk Mail List « Tiny Cat Pants

  2. The registry is of Permit Holders, not their weapons (it does contain their home addresses, social sec numbers, nhone numbers, etc). In the event of a shooting involving a permit holder, I’m quite sure (as I am in law enforcement), that the police report (which is public record) would state that the person had a permit as well as the weapon used. Just as a matter of curiosity, would you want that kind of information on yourself published in the paper at a “journalist’s” whim?

  3. Mike, as a journalist, I’m always going to prefer direct access to information as opposed to waiting on law enforcement or other agencies to determine if, when, and how (or to whom) information is released – and what info is relevant.

    I realize the permits contain SS#s- as do most arrest reports. I wasn’t aware these numbers were available on the infamous Gannett database. Were they?

    No, I don’t have a problem with my basic info being online (sans the social) It’s online now. I do, however, disagree with this particular listing. Forget invasion of privacy: in my neck of the woods, this was nothing more than a hit-list for would-be burglars on a Wednesday Church Night.

    So – here we are, once again, placed in the tenuous position of trying to legislate things I’d consider common sense… I realize there needs to be some level of protection offered for permit holders: but surely you can see there are some benefits to keeping those records open. Perhaps placing some restrictions on how the information can be accessed and used might be the middle ground?

  4. Those are very good points. If someone is a criminal looking for a gun to steal that can’t be traced back to them, the list is a list of places to go looking for a gun.

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