Concealed weapons -— a public matter
Lawmakers who have signed onto an effort to exempt disclosure of concealed weapons permits from Freedom of Information requests have got it remarkably backwards.
As stated, House Bill 2911, which was submitted by freshman Berkeley County Delegate Michael Folk, proposes to exempt from FOIA requests any records that pertain to the issuance, renewal, suspension, expiration or revocation of a license to carry a concealed weapon. Folk, who said he submitted the bill in response to the publication by a New York newspaper of gun owners’ names and addresses in Westchester and Rockland counties, has called the bill an effort to prevent the release of personal information. Berkeley County lawmakers Eric Householder, Larry Faircloth and Larry Kump say disclosure of this information violates a gun owner’s right to privacy.
While we agree the decision by the newspaper in New York to publish the names of people who owned guns was unwarranted, a license to carry a concealed weapon in public is no private matter.
A license to carry a concealed weapon is a special right granted to a user as he moves about in the public realm and is granted specifically of handguns and other weapons because these kinds of weapons can be concealed on one’s person or in one’s car while he is in public and among others. Indeed, the very fact that a license is issued distinguishes it as a privilege to the user and separate therefore from any basic right as articulated in the Second Amendment. There is no conceivable basis upon which someone could appeal to their right to privacy in this regard.
In West Virginia, as in other states, there are a number of conditions under which a person can qualify for a concealed weapons permit and the issuance of such a permit in the absence of all of these conditions surely serves as one of the best reasons why this information needs to be available for public scrutiny.
To take a line from gun rights advocates, the public is the best militia in monitoring the activities of its government. Its ability to remain so should not be thwarted by lawmakers who deliberately confuse a private privilege with the public’s right to know.