Two bills that would make it easier to obtain concealed handguns permits and keep the information secret has won easy passage in the House of Delegates.
A bill that would shield records of concealed weapons permit holders from public inspection passed 81-17 Wednesday.
In March 2007, many of the names on the list were made public by the Roanoke Times. The newspaper created a searchable online database of concealed carry permit holders in honor of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to raise awareness about open government and freedom of information.
Information was provided by the Virginia State Police, after the Roanoke Times filed a Freedom of Information request. The paper later removed the database and requested that the police verify the data.
“When we posted the information, we had every reason to believe that the data the State Police had supplied would comply with the statutes. But people have notified us that the list includes names that should not have been released,” said Debbie Meade, president and publisher of The Roanoke Times, in a March 2007 statement. “Out of a sense of caution and concern for the public we have decided to take the database off of our website.”
Editors at the Roanoke Times did not respond to requests for comment from Virginia Statehouse News on Tuesday.
Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said exposing the names of gun owners could make those houses vulnerable to robbery by people who want to steal guns.
Delegate Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, who voted against the measure Tuesday, said he doubts any criminal would knowingly break into the home of a gun-carrying Virginian.
Another opponent, Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said the information should be accessible to the public, so people know when they are encountering a concealed weapon holder. She said the issue is a basic matter of public safety.
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