LITTLE ROCK — A bill that would shield from the public personal information about people seeking or holding a concealed-carry handgun permit in Arkansas was endorsed by a Senate committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, which would exempt the names and ZIP codes of permit holders, and those who have applied for them or previously held them, from disclosure under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, now goes to the Senate.
Holland told the Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that he filed the bill in response to a New York newspaper’s decision in December to publish the names and address of concealed-carry permit holders in two New York counties after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.
"A doctor in my area … said this is a bad thing happening, it could put a lot of people in danger if they know I have a gun and get confronted by someone or challenged," Holland said. "This is a privacy issue."
Crawford County Assessor Ronnie Dale spoke for the bill, as did Scotty Keller of Faulkner County who said she recently received a concealed-carry permit.
"I don’t want somebody coming into my home expecting a gun. I want to be the person with the surprise," Keller said.
Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, chairman of the committee, said he couldn’t understand why a newspaper would want to run such a list. He went on to say he felt the New York paper’s decision to publish the list was an attack on the Second Amendment.
The newspaper representatives said no paper in Arkansas has ever run the list and they couldn’t understand why the New York paper did so. They said the information, however, is a useful data base when a paper is checking to see if a convicted felon might have a permit.
Dennis Byrd, bureau chief of the Arkansas News Bureau, executive editor of Stephens Media’s Central Arkansas Newspapers and a long-time member of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, said the bill "creates a secret group of licensees whose identities can’t be known to anyone"
"That means no interested party — neighbors, coworkers or other associates — can obtain information related to who has applied for or been licensed to carry a concealed weapon," Byrd said.