Gun-permit secrecy attacked

Bill precludes oversight, foes say; backers aim to surprise criminals

By MIKE JOHNSON
mikejohnson@journalsentinel.com

Posted: Dec. 9, 2005

Without public access to the names of people who would be allowed to carry concealed weapons, it would be nearly impossible to tell whether the law is working as intended and make sure the permits wind up solely in the hands of upstanding citizens, officials of government watchdog groups said Friday.

Quotable

The beauty of the bill is that the criminal will not know who is or who is not carrying a weapon. - Rep. Scott Gunderson

It is impossible for the public to engage in any meaningful oversight when the records are off the books. - Lucy Dalglish, executive director, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

The Texas Experience

A study of the concealed carry law in Texas from 1996–2001 showed that:

  • 41 permit holders were arrested on murder and attempted murder charges
  • 5,314 offenses were committed by permit holders. Texas cut off access to permit information after the study was published.

Douglas E. Lee, a legal correspondent with the national First Amendment Center.

Charles Davis, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition: Allowing people to conceal weapons “without allowing citizens any avenue of accountability strikes me as wrongheaded in the extreme.”

Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire), the sponsor of the bill, said the Wisconsin attorney general’s office would make sure the so-called Personal Protection Act works if it becomes law. Each year, the office would report to the Legislature on the number of applicants, the number of permits issued and denied, and any problems encountered.

thieves would know where to find guns - a highly sought-after item in burglaries.
“Texas is a tremendous example of how good the law is,” Zien said, saying that crime has decreased there.

Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Town of Waterford), who co-sponsored

“The beauty of the bill is that the criminal will not know who is or who is not carrying a weapon.”

Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, points to Texas as a state where the concealed carry law isn’t working. A study that the non-profit center, which works to curb violence, conducted showed that “basically concealed carry permit holders were not stopping crimes, they were committing crimes,” Rand said.

Public facilities could ban guns only if they provided metal detectors and locked storage areas. Private businesses could ban guns from their premises only if they posted signs and individually notified customers as they entered their buildings.

But some officers have complained that the change isn’t enough. They have said they would not be allowed to check the database in other situations, such as when responding to a domestic disturbance.

While the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council has taken no position on the issue of concealed carry, it is among those raising objections to the bill’s secrecy provisions.

Bill Lueders, president of the council and news editor of the Isthmus in Madison.

Last edited by JamesCarlson. Based on work by g.  Page last modified on December 13, 2005

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