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Senate Committee Approves Exempting Weapons Permit Info From Public Access

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 26 Feb 2013 06:20pm | comments

The Mississippi Senate could soon take action to prevent the names and addresses of residents with a weapons permit from being open to the public. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the move comes after a New York newspaper created a map of each concealed carry permit holder.

Under current law, firearms permits, including concealed carry permits, are available to anyone in the public who asks for the information.

Yesterday, a senate committee passed a bill that would exempt those records from the state's public records act.

Senator Will Longwitz of Madison says not everything the government collects from citizens should be public information.

"We are taking a right away from a gun owner in Mississippi by requiring them to apply for a concealed carry permit. There is no reason why that information should then be scattered to the public," Longwitz said.

Longwitz says making that information public could also endanger legal gun owners.

Several committees members voted against the bill, including Senator Kelvin Butler of McComb who thinks the records should remain open to encourage government transparency.

"I just think it is important that we give people, especially the press, access to information like they presently do now. In this government we are always talking about transparency and in my opinion this is another way of closing the door," Butler said.

A representative from the Governor's office told the committee that at least two requests for the information have been made, including a request for every permit issued in the state in the last two years that they rejected.

Committee chair Briggs Hopson of Vicksburg says the bill would still leave access to specific records, if a judge ordered them released.

"If you get a court order certainly. Courts are going to trump anytime. If a court determines that records should be disclosed they will be disclosed. But I can't imagine a situation where they will be disclosed so they can be published in an open forum like a news paper or a television station," Hopson said.

The bill is an amended version of a house bill, which means if it passes the full senate the two chambers will need to agree on a compromise bill.

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