This past week, there was a very sad story in the news about a deadly school shooting in Germany where over one dozen people were killed. Over the past few decades, America has had it’s own share of grief over fatal school shootings such as Columbine, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, and many more. While many countries have used gun violence as a rational for tightening gun laws, for the most part, the debate in America continues. While many can hardly deny the validity of the rights given from the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution (the right to bear arms), there are still various heated arguments about how gun laws should be structured in the US. These issues are constantly a part of election platforms, pro/anti gun campaigns, and news stories and may continue to be for years to come.
In the US, most states have some sort of law which allows private citizens to carry a concealed weapon or handgun. This law requires that citizens obtain a permit which allows them to legally own the weapon and carry it in a concealed manner, such as under clothing. Currently, only Vermont and Alaska have laws which allow their citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The majority of states, including Florida and Washington, have what is called a shall issue policy, which means that they cannot arbitrarily deny someone a permit. Yet, other states require that the person applying for a permit show why they need it. Without the appropriate permit under that state’s laws, any gun possession could be considered illegal.
The concealed weapon permit laws will vary by state and, as such the type of weapons carried, or who is allowed to carry the weapons can vary. For example, some states may only allow private citizens to obtain permits for one handgun, while other states allow for the carrying of multiple concealed weapons. Some states also expand their definition of concealed weapons beyond handguns, and also allow for other weapons, such as martial arts weapons. The age where a citizen is allowed to carry a concealed weapon can also vary from 16 to 18 to 21. The structure of these laws are often at the center of the gun debate.
Over the past few months, another gun issue has sparked heated debates in America. This time, however, the argument centers around public records. Depending on the public records laws of a state, concealed weapon records are likely public records. However, recently, some states such as Tennessee and Oregon have been attempting to limit this information. In Tennessee, the issue became very heated as a local newspaper printed the names of permit holders. Although obtaining a concealed weapon record may not always be available online, if you contact the agency responsible for managing these records (likely a Sheriff’s or Police Department) and request the record, they could be required to give it to you under the state’s public records laws.
Many who are permit holders may question why such information should be made available. There are concerns about privacy, discrimination, and community backlash against the permit holders. Yet, on the other side of the argument, some may want to know whether their neighbor, co-worker, or future business partner is a gun-owner. The argument certainly begs the question: If we have a right to review someone’s business records, criminal records, and birth records, under public records laws, why should a gun permit record be kept secret? What are your thoughts?
If you want to uncover what type of records are public in your state, try viewing The Free Public Records Directory. There is information by state and county, as well as links for online access to many records.