Bills filed to limit access to gun data
Jan 02, 2010 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
SEARCH GUN PERMIT DATABASE
State lawmakers submitted a series of bills this week to protect the privacy of Hoosiers who hold gun permits.
At least three different bills have been filed, legislators said.
The proposed laws would prohibit the Indiana State Police from publicly releasing the names, home addresses and other identifying information about permit holders.
Current law allows anybody to purchase the state's full permit database for $32. It includes a permit holder's race, height, hair color, eye color and more.
Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, and Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Indianapolis, each submitted a bill to cut off that access, they said.
Public permit data causes problems, Welch said.
It "either tells people where handguns are, or where handguns are not," Welch said.
The Herald-Times and the Indianapolis Star both published heavily edited versions of the state's permit database in recent months.
Murphy said the newspapers took conservative approaches, where others might not have.
"It was only the Star and the H-T's editorial discretion that limited their databases to (what they were)," he said. "But now we are full of bloggers and all kinds of people who are not bound by the same professional concerns."
"To protect the safety of gun owners and non-gun owners, it is better to have this information available only to law enforcement," Murphy said.
Walker's Senate bill is very similar to Murphy's House bill, and also bars all non-law enforcement sources from accessing the data.
Neither bill would be effective retroactively, the legislators said.
Gun ownership is a right that should not be infringed upon in any way -- including the publication of permit records, Walker said.
Walker's opposition to a public list is more than theoretical, though.
"The list has intimidated some of the people whose names could be on it," he said. "It puts them at risk of predators who are looking for a source of handguns."
"If a person has this personal protection in their possession for the element of surprise, or to balance the playing field in terms of personal force, you have the potential to remove that element of surprise by publishing this information," Walker said.
There are larger issues at play, said Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, who is co-authoring Rep. Welch's bill.
Koch wants the state to study what other databases are being maintained that might infringe on the rights of Hoosiers.
"What privacy is today, versus what it was 25 or 30 years ago, is largely different, due mostly to technology," Koch said. "Now may be a good time to look at the bigger picture."
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