Thursday, April 19, 2007

Privacy and Packing Heat

In Texas, you need a license to drive a car or cut hair. And these are public record.

You also need a license to carry a concealed handgun. But if the Lege gets its way, this won't be open to public scrutiny. I'm always one for more transparency, so I'm not favorably inclined toward this.

Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, said Texans who go to the trouble of getting fingerprinted and licensed to carry a concealed handgun should enjoy complete privacy.

“They’re law-abiding, they’re hard-working, they’ve gone to extraordinary steps to protect themselves and their family,” Rose said. “I believe they ought to have their privacy protected.”

Rose’s legislation, House Bill 991, had strong backing from the gun lobby but was opposed by advocates of open government. It was approved in a matter of minutes on a vote of 135-7. It is up for a final vote today; its fate in the Senate is less certain.

Only one legislator — Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth — rose to speak against it Wednesday. ...

Joel White, immediate past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said more is at stake than an individual’s right to know about a neighbor or co-worker.

“There is another broad purpose to keeping this information public, and that is to oversee law enforcement and determine whether they’re actually following the law,” White said. “There is no way to know if they’re passing out permits to convicted felons if you don’t have access. That is not hypothetical, because in the past DPS did hand out hundreds of permits to felons.”

Thanks for at least trying to stop the juggernaut, Lon.

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