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The Oregon House recently passed a bill that would remove concealed handgun applications from the public record. Proponents of the bill say that there’s too much personal information on individual citizens tied up in the documents.
Public records should focus on the government, not private citizens, they say.
Here’s Rep. Kim Thatcher’s full-throated defense of the move from the House debate on the day they passed the bill:
"As the law stands now, the information in these applications includes things like, home phone numbers, home address, Social Security numbers, what kinds of guns you have in the house -- that's what's on the application -- whether you were dishonorably discharged from the military, what controlled substances you are taking and were you ever accused of -- accused, mind you -- of stalking," Thatcher, R-Keizer, said. "And right now all of that would be subject to public records disclosure."
That’s an awful lot of information, indeed. But being our usual suspicious selves, we wondered whether all of that was truly included in the application.
So, we did a quick check -- well, we thought it would be a quick check. We’d just pull down the Multnomah County Sheriff’s online license application and take a look, right? Well, it turns out that each of Oregon’s 36 counties has a slightly different application -- some considerably more stringent, some considerably less. After a few days of web searching and phone calling, we got our hands on 34 of the applications.
Here’s what we found:
-"Home phone numbers": Yes. This is one of the first things every application we reviewed asks for.
-"Home address": Yes, again. You also have to include a mailing address if that’s different.
-"Social Security numbers": Sort of. Every application we reviewed asks for a Social Security number, but all, save two, expressly note that "disclosure of your Social Security account number is voluntary."
-"What kinds of guns you have in the house": Not usually. On 24 of the applications we looked through, there was no question asking applicants about current ownership. Of the remaining eight, six asked whether you "currently own or possess a firearm," but only if you have ever been dishonorably discharged from the armed forces, renounced your U.S. citizenship, been ordered to register as a sex offender in any state or use controlled substances. Everybody else can skip the question. The remaining four from Baker, Grant, Gilliam and Klamath counties ask all applicants for this information.
-"Whether you were dishonorably discharged from the military": Yes, this is on most applications. If you have been, you also have to say when it happened.
-"What controlled substances you are taking": Yep, this is there. Such controlled substances, for those who are curious, include but are not "limited to, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, LSD, or ecstasy." (That quote is from the Multnomah County application.)
-"Were you ever accused of ... stalking": Nope. Eleven applications don’t touch on this subject at all. The other 23 ask only if the applicant is "currently subject to any type of restraining or stalking order by the court." They also have to include some specifics about that situation if that question applies to them. That said, if the order has been lifted, the question doesn’t apply -- note the word "currently."
For what it’s worth, those last two questions (the one on controlled substances and the one about stalking) are pretty important given that federal law, according to the application, prohibits folks who say yes to those questions from possessing firearms at all, much less handguns of the concealed variety.
Thatcher is spot on when it comes to four of her assertions (the phone numbers, home addresses, military discharge and controlled substances), but she’s less accurate on the other three (social security, current gun ownership and stalking).
When we called her office, Rep. Thatcher -- and later her spokeswoman Dawn Phillips -- told us she wasn’t making sweeping proclamations about all of the applications. What matters, they said, is that her comments apply to some of the state’s 36 applications. On that point, she’s pretty close to right. That is, except for the stalking claim. Thatcher makes it sound as though anybody accused of stalking at any point in their lives would have to say so on the application. But that’s just no true.
On certain applications, you have to noted whether you are currently under a court order. That’s considerably different, in our view.
Still, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that some of the necessary nuance was left out because her comments were spoken -- not written -- and rate this claim Mostly True.
Recording of House floor session, March 17, 2011
Concealed handgun application, Multnomah County, March 18, 2011
Conversation with Rep. Kim Thatcher, March 18, 2011
E-mail from Dawn Phillips, spokeswoman for Rep. Kim Thatcher, March 21, 2011
Concealed handgun license applications from the following counties: Baker, Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Gilliam, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Wasco, Washington and Yamhill.
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