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@NCCapitol

Confidential gun records debated in NC Senate

Posted February 14, 2013

Handgun generic, firearm

— A state Senate panel debated legislation Thursday that would make gun permits in North Carolina confidential records, available only through a court order.

The Senate Judiciary Committee didn't vote on Senate Bill 28, which garnered support from law enforcement and gun rights groups but was criticized by the North Carolina Press Association.

"This bill is actually is aimed at the theft of guns," said bill sponsor Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson. He said there's been a "public outcry" from gun owners concerned they could be targeted by thieves.

Greg Stahl, director of government relations for the North Carolina Sheriffs Association, said sheriff's offices statewide have been "flooded with requests" to examine gun permit records, including many requests from people not in the media.

"The list of gun owners also tells you where there are no guns," Stahl said. "If you're a smart person looking for a house to break into, you go to the sheriff's office and ask for the records."

Public permit records do not actually indicate homes that have no guns, since no permits are required for rifles, shotguns or any other long gun. 

Still, lobbyists for the North Carolina Firearms Dealers Group and the North Carolina Rifle and Pistol Association argued that there is "no legitimate reason" for people to know who does or doesn't own a gun, adding that publicizing such information has a "chilling effect on the Second Amendment."

"Are we going to protect the information of law-abiding citizens who have chosen to buy handguns?" Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke, asked his colleagues.

John Bussian, an attorney for the North Carolina Press Association, argued that that right must be balanced against citizens' right to know.

"This is yet another government record secrecy bill," said Bussian, noting that handgun permits and concealed carry permits are and have always been public records nationwide. 

Bussian cited investigative reports that have used permit records to trace the flow of illegal guns.

"We’re here to make sure that, before all this information is made secret forever and ever, that folks here have some real evidence of the need for that secrecy," he said.

"Local media – WRAL in particular – has done a story about permit holders," Bussian said. "While admittedly no names were released, even with that, there’s no evidence I know of that anybody’s been burglarized as a result of it. And I don't expect there will be."

Democrats on the committee echoed that concern. 

"Is there any empirical data that proves thieves are using this information and breaking into homes that have guns?" asked Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. "What do we have to suggest that's actually occurring?"  

"Why would anybody break into a place that's an arsenal?" asked Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange.

Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, called the bill a solution in search of a problem.

"I just don't know what we're trying to fix," Graham said.

Bingham could not provide any data on burglaries linked to public gun records, but he encouraged critics of the bill to check with local sheriffs.  

"There's a lot of evil folks out there," said Sen. Bill Cook, R-Beaufort. "I don't want them to know whether I have a gun or not. I want them to be worried about that if they're thinking about doing evil in my house."

Two small tweaks were made to the original bill to require a court order for the release of gun permit information and to clarify that records kept by gun dealers are private.

195 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • 1911A1 Feb 14, 7:11 p.m.

    Doing something just to do something is wasting time and money.

  • junkmail5 Feb 14, 7:02 p.m.

    On point. Do you honestly think criminals are buying their illegal guns from legitimate sellers?-Chapel Hill Conservative

    I know for a fact they are.

    I've bought and sold a fair number of weapons, as have friends. A know personally of a number of cases where if you actually ask the buyer to sign a bill of sale swearing they are legal to buy, they cancel the purchase.

    It's happened to me, it's happened to others.

    So yes, this would stop that from happening in all the cases where the seller doesn't ask- which is most of them.

    As further evidence, over 30,000 felons were stopped by the EXISTING background check trying to buy from FFLs. Despite them knowing that's not legal.

    Criminals are pretty dumb. So yes, a simple thing like a background check will, FOR A FACT, deny them a significant source of weapons they are currently using.

    It's not a total solution, but an improvement over today,and with no real cost (NICS already is up and running) and no infringement to legal buyers

  • Chapel Hill Conservative Feb 14, 6:50 p.m.

    "If background checks were required for private sale, all those private sellers vanish as sources for those felons. It won't _solve_ the problem, but it would improve it." - junkmail5

    On point. Do you honestly think criminals are buying their illegal guns from legitimate sellers? The people selling the criminals the guns are criminals themselves. Have you ever heard the term black market?

    Any solutions to actually preventing any gun related crimes would be negligible at best. Now, if you can show where a legitimately licensed FFL gun dealer is knowingly selling to these criminals, then you might have a case. Otherwise, illegally buying or selling a gun is just that... illegal. There are already laws that deal with that. They just need to be enforced.

    And if a criminal thinks there's too much of a risk in buying from any given seller, he'll simply move on to one he feels comfortable with. These registration barriers won't stop him. They won't even do much to slow him down.

  • junkmail5 Feb 14, 6:18 p.m.

    Yeah, because criminals will be more than happy to go through a background check before buying a gun on the local street corner with their illegally obtained drug/ mugging money.
    Chapel Hill Conservative

    This totally misses the point.

    Right now, today, SELLERS who want to follow the law can sell long guns to anybody who they don't have reason to think can't have the gun.

    So there's lots of private sellers for felons to buy from just by keeping their mouths shut. And they do. I've run into some myself.

    If background checks were required for private sale, all those private sellers vanish as sources for those felons.

    It won't _solve_ the problem, but it would improve it.

  • Ex-Republican Feb 14, 5:55 p.m.

    " . . . even with that, there’s no evidence I know of that anybody’s been burglarized as a result of it. And I don't expect there will be."

    Two problems:
    1."there's no evidence that I know of". Bussian is not omniscient. There may be many instances of this. How do you think guns get on the black market?

    2. "I don't expect there will be." I don't expect my house to catch on fire but there's always a good possibility it will. That's why have insurance.

    Why take the chance?

  • Mr. Middle of the Road Feb 14, 5:37 p.m.

    This is the first prez. who wants to confiscate guns against the 2nd Amendment. Homeland security has named law abiding Citizens as potential home grown Terrorists, if they are Veterans, Christians, Constitutionalists,believe in the Bill of Rights etc. in other words American CITIZENS. But they declared the War on Terror is over against Enemies such as Jihadists. Now we will have Drones over America, but FAA says they will not be equipped with Hellfire Missles..don't you feel better now? If they can confiscate the Guns, they will have America right where they want us. Helpless to the whims of Criminals and tyrants.
    seenbetterdaze

    I think you have been watching too much television.

  • GravyPig Feb 14, 5:26 p.m.

    "yes, gravypig several crimes...google it"

    I saw after my post that there were some crimes. While it is public record, it was very foolish for them to print that info. If those effected by this are able, I would suggest they sue the news outlet that printed that info. Public record is one thing, making public record that public is just plain dumb.

  • beachboater Feb 14, 4:54 p.m.

    There was probably not a problem until all this news coverage. Now the crooks know that they can find the information and do what they do best with the info.

    I do not think gun owners info should be public.

  • The Yoda Feb 14, 4:53 p.m.

    Again, it is my personal opinion. How many politicians ever fear the armed citizens comparing to an unbiased News Outlet? says Da Toy Maker

    If we had an unbiased news outlet in this country I might agree with you. We have a 90% Liberal/Progressive Media and a 10% Conservative Media.

  • jawsofsteel Feb 14, 4:53 p.m.

    I can promise you that having gun information public will definitely increase the odds for people of ill will. You are basically giving information to someone so that when you go to work and think your home is safe, they are now armed with the information to go in and steal your weapons leaving not only you defenseless but your neighbors could be the next target.

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