Keep the 'public' in law

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board March 07, 2012 08:45 am

We vigorously support the idea that responsible adults should be allowed to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun in Oregon.

But we’re equally vehement in believing that the existence of these permits should be a matter of public record.

We’re disappointed, then, that the Legislature recently passed a law (House Bill 4045) which, in effect, thumbs its nose at the notion that Oregonians should be able to keep track of what their elected officials are up to.

The officials in this case are Oregon's 36 county sheriffs. They’re responsible for deciding who gets a concealed handgun permit.

The sheriffs’ professional organization has for years argued that the names of permit-holders should be exempt from Oregon's public records law. But we’ve yet to hear a compelling case made as to why the information, if available to the public, would threaten permit-holders’ or their families’ safety.

Conversely, the only study on this issue found that an estimated 1,200 convicted criminals, who aren’t supposed to be eligible for a permit in Oregon, got one anyway.

The law the Legislature passed would make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for the public to find out about such blunders.

Lawmakers tried to address that concern by including exceptions that could allow certain people, including reporters, to gain access to permit data.

That’s not good enough. It’s supposed to be a “public" records law, not a "news media” records law.

We urge Gov. John Kitzhaber to veto HB 4045.