New law would make gun permit info inaccessible

Posted at 11:12 PM, Feb 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-15 00:31:24-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--Does your neighbor have the proper paperwork to pack heat?

A law could soon be signed making sure you never get the chance to know.

Governor Bob McDonnell is expected to sign legislation that passed the Senate 31 to 9 Thursday to ensure the names of Virginia’s concealed weapons’ permit holders will truly be concealed.

In the West End, t-shirts with ages and names of gun violence victims were waving in the wind as anti-gun protesters tried to send a highly visible message to Congressman Eric Cantor on Capitol Hill.

"It's common sense legislation, a personal privacy issue," said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark Obenshain, a Republican from Harrisonburg.

While inside theGeneral Assembly at Capitol Square lawmakers took aim at a privacy issue involving hand gun permits.  They hit the target and the bill sailed through the Senate; now headed to the governor’s desk.

“In Va., you are either qualified to carry or you’re not," said Obenshain.

Under current law, hand gun permits and applications are public record, so anyone can walk into any circuit court to view them.  But the new law ends that.

The bill was born in response to newspapers that published the names and addresses of law-abiding gun permit holders after the shooting tragedies at Virginia Tech in 2007, and  Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The paper that published the info after the Sandy Hook shooting removed its publication after a push from the public.

Andrew Goddard, the father of a Virginia Tech shooting survivor, agrees with proposal but believes some information should be available.

“I  do think it's a bad idea to publish people’s names for no valid reason,” said Goddard.  “But if you want it to stop, you draft a bill to address that.  You don't just make everything a secret.  The reason they want to do that is because it's embarrassing when someone with a permit commits mass murder or murder."

"The First Amendment doesn't allow an option where it says the press can have it but can't publish a piece of it,” said gun rights activist Philip Van Cleave.  “It's all or nothing and I'm glad they chose nothing."

Goddard contends there's nothing you can get from the government that puts you in a secret class unless you’re an undercover agent.

Van Cleave's response to that is when the public knows who’s packing-it can put lives at risk.  He say not everyone is a law-abiding citizen.