Concealed Handgun License Holder Privacy
In November 2008, the media and other groups requested lists of information about Concealed Handgun Licensees (CHL) in a Jackson County court case. The Sheriff declined to produce them based on privacy issues. The court ruled that unless the Sheriff had proof that each CHL holder wanted their information kept confidential, the information would need to be released.
While the Jackson County case was pending appeal, Sheriff Gordon directed staff to take a preemptive step to protect CHL holders in Washington County. We requested information from each of our 10,000 CHL holders and you responded; we have that information in our files. It now appears that was the correct action to take.
Oregon Sheriffs Meet to Discuss the Issue
In December of 2008, 30 of the 36 county Sheriffs in Oregon met and discussed issues surrounding the privacy of personal and application information submitted by Concealed Handgun License holders. It is impressive to have so many top law enforcement executives give a meeting such priority. We thought you might like to know some of the outcomes of that meeting.
The sheriffs present unanimously agreed on several points related to CHL records. More than half of the counties present indicated they had already taken steps to notify concealed handgun license holders in their counties of the privacy concerns. Although some counties could not afford the mailing or could not accommodate an online electronic notice, their outreach program included posting notices in local newspapers. Several other counties were preparing to give the notice. (Read an article by OSSA President, Raul Ramirez)
In addition, all Sheriffs present agreed that counties should develop a common form of application to ensure consistency statewide in the process. Work will begin on that document very soon.
Perhaps most significant is the resolve of all the sheriffs to jointly develop legislative strategies to prevent the public disclosure of this sensitive information. Our response was not a knee-jerk reaction; in December the Oregonian requested CHL records from the Washington County Sheriff and Willamette Week requested them from Multnomah County. Both sheriffs denied the requests based on our belief that citizens obtain concealed handgun licenses for personal protection and that they expect the records to be confidential.
We thank everyone who has helped to get the message out and all those who responded promptly to our questionnaire. Washington County has received 8,386 replies in response to the privacy questionnaire mailed to 10,060 Concealed Handgun License holders. To date, only 2 people have expressed a desire to have their application and personal information released to the public. We are still receiving responses daily online and via regular mail.
Appellate Court Decision Regarding Concealed Handgun License Records
On June 23, 2010, the Oregon Court of Appeals filed a decision declaring that all concealed handgun licenses issued by the Sheriff of Jackson County are public records. The decision is largely based on the lack of information from each license holder about the privacy issue.
The Oregon sheriffs worked together to promote legislative action on this issue, but were not successful last session. In the meantime, Sheriff Garrett believes that if such a request is made here, he will be able to protect the information on Washington County CHL holders. Thank you for your support on this important issue!