So your Iowa House has voted overwhelmingly to keep gun permit records secret:
Legislation that requires sheriff’s offices to keep the names of firearm permit holders confidential passed the Iowa House on Monday with wide bipartisan support.
State Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, who managed the bill, said it was in response to some high-profile cases of media and other organizations requesting information on firearm permit holders.
Under Iowa law, anyone who wants to acquire a firearm must first get a permit to acquire or a permit to carry a firearm through his or her local sheriff’s office. A permit to acquire is valid for one year and a permit to carry is valid for five years. Long guns do not require a permit.
Windschitl said keeping permits confidential is a public safety precaution for people who own firearms as well as those who don’t because it means criminals cannot target specific people based on whether they have or don’t have a permit.
I fully supported the shall-issue legislation a few years back, which greatly expanded the number of folks in Iowa who have a permit to carry. I didn’t think law-abiding citizens should have to beg their local sheriff for a permit, or be denied simply because they happened to live in a county where the sheriff was stingy with permits. In general, I support gun rights, with some reasonable safeguards and responsibilities for gun owners.
But I also believe that our right to view and review the actions taken by our government is just as important as our right to bear arms. Like it or not, issuing permits is still a government action, so making that action confidential, in my view, erects one more obstruction to our view. Obstructions are always much easier to pass than expansions. There’s always a good reason for less disclosure. This one passed with no debate.
I’m not going to lose sleep if it passes. Law enforcement, at least, will still have access to the information. But I think every obstruction deserves at least one objection.
And I think it’s ironic that gun rights advocates, of all people, would use the isolated misuse of those records elsewhere as pretext for putting new restrictions on our right to monitor our government. This is the exact sort of lawmaking they rail against when gun control legislation is on the table.
I don’t have a permit, and yet, I don’t feel like I need the Legislature’s protection. I worry more about public records being declared a threat to public safety. I think we’ve seen too much of that in the last decade or so.
It’s also possible that allowing the public to view permit information could be good for the cause of gun rights. Here’s a list of local people, people we may know, friends, neighbors, who are gun owners. They’re not scary or threatening.
We’ve all heard the argument that if we take guns from law-abiding people, the only people who will have guns are criminals. Well, if we keep that list of law-abiding people a secret, and the only folks with guns we’ll read about will be criminals.