The Tennessee Senate voted Wednesday to prohibit the public from gaining access to identifying information about people registered with the government to legally carry firearms.
Proponents of the legislation encapsulated in Senate Bill 108/House Bill 9 have argued that media outlets or websites publishing names and addresses of firearm-owners can give crooks valuable intelligence on possible homes to burglarize. Permit-holder info can be used both by criminals looking to steal guns and by would-be home-invaders interested in lowering their risk of encountering armed residents, said the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin.
Last year the U.S. Department of Justice released statistics indicating that from 2005 to 2010 around 1.4 million firearms were stolen nationwide. “This number represents an estimated average of 232,400 firearms stolen each year— about 172,000 stolen during burglaries and 60,300 stolen during other property crimes,” the report stated.
Over that time span, the report added, “the majority of household burglaries (56 percent) or other property crimes (59 percent) involving stolen firearms occurred in the South.”
“This is for the public welfare,” Haile said while presenting the handgun-permit records bill on the Senate floor Wednesday. “It does close the permit record, except in cases where law enforcement would need to come in, or child support enforcement…or there is documentation or court’s order to allow the viewing of individual permit-carriers.”
According to the SB108, “Any person or entity may request the department of safety to search its handgun permit holder database to determine if a named person has a Tennessee handgun carry permit…if the person or entity presents with the request a judgment of conviction, criminal history report, order of protection, or other official government document or record that indicates the named person is not eligible to possess a handgun carry permit under the requirements of (state law).”
Only two senators voted against the measure, Democrats Jim Kyle and Douglas Henry of Memphis and Nashville, respectively. Republican Randy McNally of Oak Ridge abstained. No one rose to speak against SB108.
Kent Flanagan, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government Coalition, opposes the measure. Shutting the public and press off from government records is rarely a good idea, he said.
“The decision to close access to the state’s handgun database benefits no one. We have seen time and again when government activities are hidden from the public, that lack of oversight leads to problems. Case in point, the (Tennessee) Department of Children’s Services,” Flanagan said in a statement following the Senate’s vote.
The legislation now goes back to the House for final approval. It originally passed March 11 in the lower chamber on an 84-10-1 vote.