The bill filings appear to be a reaction to an outcry by gun supporters following stories done by The Indianapolis Star and The Herald-Times (Bloomington). In both cases, the newspapers put onto their Web sites a database based on the permits maintained by The Indiana State Police, but neither database included the names of individuals who have the right to carry a firearm.
The Indianapolis Star investigation uncovered multiple cases where state police granted permit applications to people with a history of violent, if not criminal, behavior. There also were cases where the state police disregarded recommendations by local police departments to reject the applications. In some cases, the state police had a legal obligation to deny the permit, but still granted the application.*****
Capt. Sherry Beck, legislative liaison for the state police, indicated to HSPA that it will probably support efforts to seal the permit information, although she said that besides law enforcement officials and reporters, she knew of only one person who has requested information about gun permits and that individual appears to have asked just to see what was available after reading about the process.
If the permit approval process becomes closed, public oversight becomes a problem. Gun advocates would be unable to investigate whether permits that rightfully should be issued are denied and stories showing permits issued wrongly would not see daylight if the information is closed from public view.
Three Indiana lawmakers have introduced bills to prevent public release of state-held gun permit information. Two of the lawmakers – Reps. Mike Murphy, R-Indianapolis, and Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington – are from cities where newspapers recently posted databases containing such information.
Murphy and Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, would make permit information available only to authorities, while Welch would include an exception for journalists and educational researchers.
Murphy’s bill has had no action yet, but Welch’s bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee 12-0 and Walker’s bill was scheduled to go before the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters on Jan. 26.The Indiana Publisher, the newsletter of the Hoosier State Press Association, explored the matter in its latest issue: