How a New York newspaper may affect Montana’s concealed carry laws

Jan Anderson of the Boulder Monitor speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday

Jan Anderson of the Boulder Monitor speaks before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday

When a suburban New York newspaper, The Journal News published the names and addresses of concealed carry gun permit holders in two NY counties in December, gun rights advocates were enraged. NRA President David Keene called it “an incredibly irresponsible… attempt by the elite to demonize people who own firearms legitimately,” according to POLITICO.

Journal News Publisher Janet Hasson said, “In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, (we) thought the community should know where gun permit holders in their community were, in part to give parents an opportunity to make careful decisions about their children’s safety.” The newspaper has since removed the listing due to a new law passed in New York which provides increased privacy protections to gun permit owners.

Montana lawmakers are now working on similar legislation. On Wednesday, Senator Eric Moore (R-Miles City) spoke on his SB 145 before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He cited reports of permit holders being harassed after their information was published in The Journal News. “Let’s be proactive,” Moore told the committee, “and avoid this situation in Montana by protecting the privacy and safety of our law abiding citizens who choose to obtain a concealed carry permit.”

The Montana Department of Justice says over 30-thousand concealed carry permit holders live in the state, as of mid-December.

The bill would make the information one has to fill in for a concealed carry permit confidential information for use only by the local sheriff, who decides on the distribution of the permits. This information, including “name, address, physical description, signature, driver’s license number…and a picture of the permittee,” is currently public record.

Bill supporter Montana Shooting Sports Association Lobbyist Doug Nulle, said this information being public can subject a concealed carry applicant to “a wide variety of crimes,” and said that can be a particular concern for “retired law enforcement officers, private investigators…stalking victims and victims of domestic violence.”

Boulder Monitor Publisher and Editor Jan Anderson argued against the bill. “There are legitimate reasons the public is entitled to certain information and indeed there are valid reasons in this situation,” she said, suggesting someone feeling threatened should be able to check if the person threatening them has a concealed weapons permit.

The Montana Newspaper Association also opposed it, arguing instead for emphasis on another bill, SB 37, which makes much of the same information confidential, but keeps the concealed carry applicant’s name and address on public record.

No action was taken on the bill Wednesday.

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