The vast majority of our relatively tiny audience will consider this question a slam dunk. Of course the names of concealed carry weapon (CCW) holders should be kept secret. Secrecy is the whole point of concealed carry. If a criminal can check a database to see if an individual has a CCW, they know that their target A) has guns (a.k.a. something worth stealing) and B) has guns (something worth avoiding). Hang on; that’s a good thing, right? If the bad guys avoid the CCW holder, then the CCW holder is safer with their name on a publicly available list. That’s assuming that the criminal making the enquiry is a computer-savvy, firearms-avoiding home invader, rather than an opportunistic thief or, worse, an assassin. What are the odds? And how do those compare with the upside of making the record public?

Yes, there is a upside: public accountability. rgj.com reports from the front lines of the CCW debate:

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in June that while individual applications for permits are confidential, the names of permit holders are public record. The court was responding to a Reno Gazette-Journal request for information about CCW permits related to a story about Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons. Gibbons had his permit revoked in 2009 because he had not been certified with all the weapons listed on his certificate . . .

Beryl Love, executive editor of the Gazette-Journal, said it was never the intent of the newspaper to publish the names of permit holders and it will not do so. He said the newspaper wanted to learn more about the Gibbons’ matter and determine if the rules for permits also were being ignored in other cases.

Love said the newspaper, whose mission includes challenging any actions that weaken Nevada’s open-record laws, opposes making the names confidential.

“Any permits the state manages should be open to inspection, whether it’s a for CCW or a lemonade stand,” he said. “That’s the only way to be able to see if these things are being done fairly or if the process is being abused.”

Ms. Love has an excellent point: if CCW license records are kept secret, the shield enables corruption. Widely available public records help keep the system “honest.” Governor Gibbons’ gotcha exposed corruption in the Nevada CCW licensing system. Corruption surrounding the exercise of a fundamental freedom is a bad, bad thing.

Also, whenever members of the existing bureaucracy are for secrecy, I’m against it.

Frank Adams, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said Thursday that the group supports exempting the names of people who hold concealed carry weapons permits from Nevada’s open records law. He said the association will back a bill to do that in the 2011 Legislature.

The paper doesn’t say why Frank Adams and friends want the CCW records to remain hidden. There are two ways to look at it. Either a group of Sheriffs value citizens’ privacy or they want to preserve the power that comes from operating the CCW licensing system in the shadows.

On the other hand, Ms. Love is being entirely disingenuous when she says that Nevada CCW holders needn’t worry about being “outed” because her employer will keep their details private. In the pantheon of people the public doesn’t trust, journalists are above real estate agents, car salesmen, government employees and politicians. But below everyone else. And for good reason.

If the names of CCW license holders are out there, they’re out there. Even before that, this is a moot point. Privacy is dead. In the firearms world, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (ATF) killed it when they required Federal Firearms License holders (i.e. gun dealers) to keep records of every transaction. Now computerized.

Practically speaking, if someone nefarious wants to know about your guns, there are plenty of ways to find out, from scanning the internets for your comments on gun sites to asking a local gun dealer if he or she knows you. That’s without hacking the ATF or any other sophisticated cyber-assault.

Besides, is this really a problem? Earlier this year, whospackingnewyork.com published the names of New York state’s concealed carry holders. As far as I know, this information didn’t lead to a single “security lapse.” In fact, the database “outed” celebrities who hold New York City concealed carry licenses, highlighting the unfairness of he entire system.

The downside is low. The upside is high. Publish and be damned.

8 Responses to Question of the Day: Should States Keep the Names of Concealed Carry License Holders Secret?

  1. What is the point of having a Concealed Handgun License if anyone who wants to can find out if I have one?

    I have to pay for a very expensive permit, obey very restrictive laws, can't go in to a long list of prohibited places but you seem fine with someone being able to walk around behind me shouting "He has a concealed weapon permit"?

    If I don't have any right to privacy, why shouldn't I be allowed to carry Openly?

  2. While I don't think anyone is going to look you up on a concealed carry database, find you, follow you and shout "He has a concealed carry permit!", I believe you should be "allowed" to carry openly. In fact, it is your constitutional right to do so. "Keep and bear arms" seems pretty clear to me..

    • Robert,

      While I don't think anyone is going to, the fact is that anyone can if the list is public.

      What I'm pointing out is the the double standard, the state requires me to be confidential in my rights but then negates my right of privacy.

      It shouldn't be both.

      The other issue is simply why is it anyone's business whether or not I have a permit?
      Law enforcement if I'm involved in a crime but my neighbor, my potential employer, my crazy ex, the media? None of them have a right to invade my privacy any more than my medical records should be open to them.

  3. In may issue states, licenses should be public records.

    For shall issue states, I can understand both arguments. I don't have a problem with being able to find out if someone involved in a shooting had a license. I do have a problem with the entire list of license holders being published, as has happened in several states. Ohio wound up with a decent compromise–A journalist can find out of a particular person had a license, but isn't allowed to make copies, and can't get a copy of the entire list.

  4. The infuriating part is that the law-abiding CCW holder is forced into a catch 22 situation. I don't want to HAVE to get a license, I want to be able to carry independent of the State's authority or approval. But since I'm law-abiding, I jump through the hoops and follow the rules to get licensed which means my name lands on a publicly accessable list; which I certainly don't want. Ironically, exemption from both situations is a priveledge that criminals enjoy.

    It seems then that solution isn't to let reporters find out who's carrying on a name by name basis (a reporter with an intern and nothing better to do could conceivably compile a comprehensive list), it's to switch to a Constitutional Carry model like Alaska, Vermont and Arizona. Herein, there is no list since there is no registry. Your indentity and criminal background still have to be determined before purchasing a gun but the purchase itself is a private transaction and not a matter of public record.

  5. here's a thought. Let's just eliminate the requirement to beg permission to exercise our rights. Anyone not prohibited from owning a gun is allowed to carry openly or concealed in Vermont and Alaska. Residents who can legally own a gun can carry openly and concealed in Arizona.

  6. Maybe you could change the webpage name title Question of the Day: Should States Keep the Names of Concealed Carry License Holders Secret? | The Truth About Guns to more generic for your content you create. I liked the post withal.

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