A bill that would have shielded information about California’s concealed gun permit holders, which pit two of the state’s most powerful gun rights groups against each other, has ended in a stalemate.
For now, anyway.
Proposed legislation by state Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, would have carved out exemptions in the state’s public records law to prevent the release of personal information about concealed gun permit holders and applicants, including their phone numbers and addresses. It was sponsored by the California Rifle and Pistol Association, which pushed an unsuccessful version of the bill in 2013 that would have gone further, concealing the names of permit holders as well as where they lived.
Gray withdrew the latest version of the bill after persistent pushback from another gun rights group, the Calguns Foundation.
Changing the law would make it harder for the group to study how permits are issued in each of the state’s 58 counties, comparing how sheriffs and police chiefs use their discretion to approve or deny permits, as well as analyzing a host of other socio-economic factors, such as race and income.
Public access to permit information, said Calguns Executive Director Brandon Combs, allows him to monitor whether permits are issued equitably and legally. In the past, gun owners from nearby cities flocked to the tiny town of Isleton, California, for example, which had a reputation for issuing permits to anyone who applied. This prompted lawmakers to introduce legislation that required applicants to live in the city in which they apply for a permit.
“I’m not going to support a bill that takes tools away from me without providing any real privacy protections,” said Combs, who issues an extensive annual review of concealed gun permits.
Gray’s bill was introduced to prevent personal information from being published or mapped, like it was in 2012 by the The Journal News in upstate New York. The newspaper drew national outrage and threats after publishing the names and addresses of 44,000 gun permit holders in an interactive online map.
Weeks later, the paper took the map off its website after New York legislators passed a law that allowed concealed gun permit holders to remove their names and addresses from the state database.
New York’s experience led Gray to introduce his bill, according to members of his legislative staff. But subsequent amendments, including keeping public the street where a permit holder lives, left Gray dissatisfied. He tabled the bill a week later. It remains unclear if it will be resurrected next year.
The bill was supported by two prominent co-sponsors, the National Rifle Association and its state arm, the California Rifle and Pistol Association. It was opposed by the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
Reveal recently analyzed concealed carry applications and permits in Sacramento and San Francisco using documents obtained through the California Public Records Act. The documents further detailed the stark contrast between how the two counties exercise discretion in processing applications, which are rarely approved in San Francisco but routinely issued in Sacramento.
California is among a minority of states that release gun license and permit records, according to the nonprofit group Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Yet the law is followed inconsistently. For instance, some municipalities removed names and addresses of permit holders in responding to public records requests from Reveal.
On July 1, Ohio lawmakers closed a loophole that specifically allowed journalists to review records of concealed gun permit holders, which were otherwise off-limits to the public. The repeal came after intense pushback from the gun rights group Buckeye Firearms Association.
This story was edited by Amy Pyle and copy edited by Sheela Kamath.