Senate votes to block access to gun carry records

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 10:37am


Updated 2:36 p.m.

Before last year's elections, the Senate Republican Caucus obtained a copy of the entire database of handgun carry permit holders in Tennessee. On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled chamber voted to block public access to those records.

The Senate voted 27-2 to pass the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin without debate. Those voting in favor of the measure included Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, who had previously expressed support for keeping the records open to the public.

Ramsey told reporters after the floor session that he was unsuccessful in finding a way to keep the records open while at the same time banning media organizations from publishing the handgun carry records online.

"It could be considered a knee-jerk reaction," Ramsey said. "But it was a reaction, and that's the reason we're here today."

Ramsey noted that state Attorney General Bob Cooper opined earlier this year that efforts to restrict the publication of public records would likely violate the constitution.

"I've struggled with closing the gun records, and I worked diligently and tried amendment after amendment about what could stand up in court," Ramsey said. "We couldn't find a way of doing that and not violating the First Amendment."

The House, which previously approved its version on an 84-10 vote, would have to agree to minor changes before the bill could head to Gov. Bill Haslam for consideration. The Republican governor is expected to sign it after a review, said spokesman David Smith.

The measure would still allow media organizations and others to check the records on an individual basis when someone is charged with a felony or other crime that would make them ineligible to possess a carry permit. But that exception would not apply to misdemeanor charges, like drunken driving or possession of a firearm while intoxicated, until after a conviction led the suspension of a permit.

If that had been the law in 2011, the public would not have been able to confirm that state Rep. Curry Todd was a permit holder when he was arrest on drunken driving and gun charges. The Collierville Republican's permit wasn't suspended until he pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Records of suspended and revoked permits obtained by The Associated Press show that charges have ranged from drunken driving to drug dealing and murder. Of the 4,332 people who have lost their handgun carry privileges over the past five years, 19 percent have had their permits revoked permanently, while 81 percent have had them suspended.

Haile said closing the 400,000-person list is meant to protect permit holders from making their firearms a target for theft. But Frank Gibson, public policy director of the Tennessee Press Association, questioned that explanation.

"There's never been any evidence introduced in the 10 years this has been discussed to show that these records have been used to harm anybody," Gibson said.

Ramsey acknowledged that there have been no known cases of the database being used to target gun owners.

"Probably not, but that's beside the point," he said "It is silly, it is sensationalism. Let's not wait until somebody gets harmed."

The speaker said he did not consider it problematic for his caucus to have requested the database before last year's elections only to close them this year.

"It would have been a double standard in my opinion - and this was offered at one time - to allow a political caucus to be able to get them and nobody else," Ramsey said. "But to say it's closed to everybody, no, that's not a double standard. That's consistent."

Earlier efforts to seal the handgun carry records failed amid complaints from political operatives and advocacy groups who want to be able to obtain the names and addresses of permit holders so they can target them for fundraising and campaign mailings.


14 Comments on this post:

By: Rasputin72 on 4/10/13 at 8:50

I would not worry about gun permit records getting to the public.

I would imagine that 95% of the crimes and killings and robberies and rapes are committed by those either do not have a permit and use a stolen gun.or both.

By: .45carry on 4/10/13 at 9:40

Maybe you should rethink that, Rasputin. The public records are open to anyone, including those who might want to steal a gun to kill, rob, and rape. Not all permit holders carry their firearms 24/7 and many permit holders own multiple firearms. I agree with the legislature on this issue.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/10/13 at 9:45

I could have sworn that I my post was pretty much in line with the comment by 45 carry.

Maybe he has concerns that public records will allow the thieves to know where to go to steal a gun.

By: Rocket99 on 4/10/13 at 10:41

Just another unnecessary bill by a bunch of useless crooks who can't deal with or address the real issues.

By: ancienthighway on 4/10/13 at 1:44

Why would a holder of a gun permit be worried if a criminal came for his gun. Isn't that the reason he got the gun in the first place. Or is it more an unspoken shame thing, whether at the personal/ownership level or the GA level?

I'm actually more concerned about what other public records in the future will be "privatized". If it's public it must be an evil left wing commie thing, so let's privatize it.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/10/13 at 2:42

One of the things that people of dignity must realize. Democrats have such a heavy proportion of underclass associates that it is difficult to understand whether their concerns have validity or that their underclass associates have diarrhea of the mouth.

By: Libertine on 4/11/13 at 4:38

I wonder if the names and addresses of food stamp, welfare and medicaid receipts are public records?

By: Loner on 4/11/13 at 6:24

Again, we have the well-publicized "good reason" and the unpublicized real reason for this dubious legislation.

The "good reason" is to protect gun owners from would-be thieves who might target them, based on publicly disclosed listings of permit holders. There is no evidence to suggest that this is an actual threat...but Tea-Baggers do not need evidence to inform their legislation....they go with their "gut".

The real reason is self-serving...the law would shield politicians from bad publicity and the ensuing political fallout when they break the law.

Seriously, they should call this law the Curry Todd Law, because the real reason for the legislation is to protect sitting politicians from what happened to Curry Todd...the drunk-driving gunner and arrogant GOP lawmaker.

From the main article: "If that had been the law in 2011, the public would not have been able to confirm that state Rep. Curry Todd was a permit holder when he was arrest on drunken driving and gun charges. The Collierville Republican's permit wasn't suspended until he pleaded guilty earlier this year."

So, there it is in a nutshell, the state politicians are circling their wagons to protect their own from justice. The law is probably a waste of time and money, as it seems to be obviously unconstitutional.

The solution: Throw the scofflaw drunken gunners out of Democratic.

By: Loner on 4/11/13 at 6:55

Rasputin, the Grey-Poupon-stained Tycoon-wannabe used the terms "people of dignity" and "the underclass". Every post this joker submits stinks of class warfare's his matter what the topic may be, Rasp finds a way to work-in the class envy thing.

Rasp's views are in black & white....and limited in scope....most posters here consider him to be an annoying troll, with zero credibility....I find his posts to be somewhat amusing, though the schtick is getting old....Rasp needs new material.

By: .45carry on 4/11/13 at 7:46

ancienthighway asks....

"Why would a holder of a gun permit be worried if a criminal came for his gun. Isn't that the reason he got the gun in the first place."

Because we aren't at home 24/7....because some of us have multiple firearms, not just our carry weapon....

By: joe41 on 4/11/13 at 11:15

I will be willing to bet that this law will be overturned by the Supreme Court so it was just a waste of time.Joe

By: Jughead on 4/11/13 at 1:39

There's the liberal gun-hating crowd, and then there are folks who honor the constitution.

By: ancienthighway on 4/11/13 at 2:20

I see .45carry. You keep a rifle over the mantle, a shotgun by the front door, a six shooter under your pillow. Yes, I can see why you would be worried. There has been this marvelous invention called a gun safe where you can lock those weapons away when you aren't at home, then bring them out to admire them when you are home. An added bonus is a family member can't pick one up and accidentally shoot another family member. Another new invention is the home alarm system. It doesn't stop a burglar, but just maybe the security firm or police can show up before that gun safe is broken into and your guns stolen. Bonus is a bad guy gets caught and taken off the streets.

Let's put the "maybe" aside for a moment.

Most home break-ins occur is specific areas. Coincidently, most gun related crimes are in those same areas, as are drug and gang related incidents. Not just Nashville, but any other big city. Victims are also more unlikely to report the crime against them for fear of retaliation and feeling the police won't do anything anyway.

If I was a criminal wanting a gun, why would I risk breaking into a home where I know the owner has a gun, don't know if the home is protected by an alarm system, and don't know if the guns are protected by a safe? It would be easier and less likely to get busted by the police if I break into several homes in my neighborhood, visit a fence, then buy an unregistered gun.

This bill is simply another security blanket for the paranoid crowd.

By: .45carry on 4/11/13 at 2:42

No, ancienthighway, I don't have a rifle over every mantel, nor a shotgun by the front door, or a six shooter under my pillow. I do use a safe for all my weapons and valuables, however, and hope that that will prevent anyone not authorized by me or my wife to access them. That doesn't mean I want the newspaper or a publicly-accessed record to announce my residence as a place to find weapons.