February 7th, 2011 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: Legislature, Politics, Cops and Courts

They're Back: Legislators Try Again to Keep Handgun Licenses Secret

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Back during the 2009 legislative session, we made state Rep. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) a Rogue of the Week for attempting to undermine Oregon's public-records law—specifically, by pushing a bill that would have kept secret the identities of people licensed to carry a concealed handgun.

Thatcher's bill never made it out of committee in 2009. Now, with the House evenly divided in 2011 between Democrats and Republicans, Thatcher is back with a similar bill. And she is joined in that effort by state Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), a retired Portland cop.

A public hearing on the bill (PDF) is set for 1 pm Wednesday, Feb. 9 at the Capitol, room 343. Opponents of the bill will be up against the Oregon State Sheriff's Association, which requested the bill in 2009 and again this year.

As previously reported in WW, concealed-handgun licenses were long considered public records under state law. But in recent years, sheriffs statewide began keeping those records secret, making it impossible to check on how well sheriffs are administering the program.

Even after Medford's Mail-Tribune prevailed in court on the issue over the Jackson County sheriff, sheriffs statewide have continued to deny public-records requests for the names of people licensed to pack heat. Sheriffs (including Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton) are currently denying those requests by claiming that licensees have said in surveys they want the records kept secret. That justification has never been tested in court—so it's unsurprising sheriffs continue to seek a legislative fix.


 
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