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Packing Heat Privately

Should information about people who have permits to carry concealed guns be publicly available?

It all started with a South Medford High School teacher who has a permit to carry a concealed gun. Last year, Shirley Katz filed suit against the school district where she works, challenging the district ban on bringing concealed weapons on campus.

Katz is one of thousands of Oregonians who hold permits to carry concealed weapons. To get one, applicants must be 21 years old, an Oregon citizen or legal resident, and demonstrate competence with a handgun, usually by completing a course. You can’t get a permit if you have felony or drug use convictions or a record of mental illness that would deny you the right to have a firearm.

Until recently, license applications noted — just above the applicant’s signature — that Oregon law considers the application public information. As part of its reporting on Katz’s lawsuit, the Medford Mail Tribune asked the Jackson County Sheriff for a list of everyone who has a concealed weapons permit. Sheriff Michael Winters said no, citing an exception in the public records law that protects security measures taken to protect an individual. The paper sued and won, and the case is now on appeal.

Meanwhile, other sheriffs around the state have rallied behind Sheriff Winter. Washington County sent out a letter to the 10,000 people who hold concealed weapons permits there, asking if they got the permit as a personal safety measure and whether they want the information on their application to be kept confidential. Columbia, Tillamook, Morrow and Gilliam have followed suit. Other counties put the questions on the applications. They have been accused by some of going beyond their authority to interpret the law — and praised by others for protecting personal information.

Should the names, addresses, or other information about people who have permits to carry concealed guns be publicly available? Why would you want to know? If you have a permit, why should that be a secret?

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