The Indiana Coalition for Open Government board has given its thumbs down to bills in the state Legislature that would close off public access to information on handgun permits, including the identities of those who are awarded licenses.
The two bills, however, have had overwhelming support among legislators, who are moving the restrictions toward adoption.
The board at its annual meeting Jan. 29 voted to oppose S.B. 195, which would make all information on gun permits private. Keith Robinson, president, had testified against the bill before the Senate committee hearing the proposal. He said that while some handgun carriers might want information about their license kept private for their security, members of the general public might want to know for their own safety who has a license to carry a handgun. Robinson said there was no compelling reason to change the law to favor privacy over disclosure in this case.
The committee, however, passed the bill 7-2 and sent it to the full Senate, where it was approved 45-5 Feb. 2 and sent to the House.
ICOG also opposes H.B. 1068, which would make limited, non-identifying information on gun permits available to journalists and academic researchers but not to the general public. The House passed that bill 85-11 Jan. 26, forwarding it to the Senate.
Closing public access to gun permit licenses would severely limit public oversight of the permitting process, such as what The Indianapolis Star accomplished in a recent investigation in which it found irregularities in licensing. The newspaper reported that state police in some cases awarded permits to individuals with a history of violent behavior and disregarded some recommendations by local police to reject permit applications. The Star’s report was accompanied by a database, posted on its Web site, showing the number of permits issued by ZIP code but did not identifying holders of the licenses.
Both bills were filed after public outcry over posting of that database and a similar one posted by The Herald-Times of Bloomington. Some lawmakers said they were inundated with complaints from license holders who presumed that the information on the permits was confidential.