The Natchez Democrat

Under fire: Gun permit proposal could damage public records laws

Published 12:05am Sunday, February 3, 2013

NATCHEZ — Records listing Mississippians who have registered for a concealed carry gun permit could soon be under government lock and key.

Currently, the listings are public record, covered by the Mississippi Public Records Act. Any member of the public can view any public record upon request.

House Bill 485, now before the Mississippi Legislature and backed by the National Rifle Association, passed the House 101-18 last week and will move next for more debate in the Senate.

Under the proposed bill, only law enforcement officers would be able to look up the names of those with a state permit to carry a gun.

The bill was filed after its sponsor, Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, said he received requests from constituents who were upset that a newspaper in New York, The Journal News, published the names and addresses of people who have concealed weapons permits after the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“I don’t want to make those that are trying to protect themselves and their families susceptible to harm,” Baker told the House in arguing to close the records.

Mississippi Press Association President Jim Prince said he objects to the closing of the records and that the bill is an overreaction to something that isn’t likely to happen in the state.

“If the government is going to maintain records on law abiding citizens, those records should be open for public inspection,” Prince said. “There isn’t a (newspaper) publisher I know in Mississippi who has any intention of publishing those names, but they should be available for inspection if needed.

“The media can abuse things, and it’s because of those abuses that we’ve had these reactions, but we don’t need a knee jerk reaction to something a liberal New York paper did.”

In Louisiana, those records are already closed to public inspection.

Louisiana lawmakers, however, are considering introducing legislation that would create criminal penalties for anyone who publishes the names of concealed carry permit holders. That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, would be considered in the legislative session that begins in April.

But with applications for concealed weapon permits more then doubling from 2008 to 2012 in Mississippi, Prince and others are hoping for more thorough debates in the Senate.

“I think if cooler heads prevail in the Senate, there is a way to satisfy the concern, which is a legitimate one, that gun owners don’t want their names and address plastered in a newspaper,” Prince said. “I certainly understand where they’re coming from, but at the same time I can’t approve closing records.

“You start heading down a slippery slope when you start closing any kind of public records.”

To close or not to close?

In the last five years, more than 38,000 people have applied for a concealed weapon permit in Mississippi, according to figures from the Department of Public Safety.

Licenses to carry stun guns, concealed pistols or revolvers are issued by the department to people who meet the following qualifications:

Are 21 or older.

Been a resident of Mississippi for more than 12 months; have a valid out-of-state license; be on active military duty; or be a retired law enforcement officer seeking residency in the state.

Do not suffer from a physical infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a handgun.

Do not have any previous drug or alcohol abuse charges.

Are not a convicted felon or fugitive from justice.

Have not been voluntarily or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or mental health treatment facility unless they have a certificate from a psychiatrist licensed in the state saying they have not suffered from disability for at least five years.

Have no violent misdemeanor convictions within the last three years.

Are not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.

All applicants must submit fingerprints, a full-face photograph and pay a fingerprint and license fee.

A background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigation is required for all applicants.

Permits are valid for five years from the date of issuance and must be carried together with a valid identification at all times when carrying the stun gun, concealed pistol or revolver.

No permit is required for people to have guns in their homes, businesses or vehicles and no permit is required for antique or collectible weapons.

The permit gives permission for someone to carry a pistol or revolver concealed in a bag or under a jacket in other places, such as public sidewalks.

Another available certification also requires an eight-hour gun safety course in order for handgun owners to be permitted to carry their weapon into public buildings, churches and malls.

The Department of Public Safety maintains an automated listing of all permit holders that is available upon request to all law enforcement agencies through the Mississippi Crime Information Center.

The records are exempt from public access for a period of 45 days from the date of issuance. Currently, once that time period has lapsed, the records are available upon request pursuant to the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983.

House Bill 485 states that the name, home address, telephone number or any other private information of a person with a concealed carry permit would be exempt from the public records act.

Gene Newman, NRA field representative for Mississippi and Alabama, said documents on law-abiding citizens obtained through a lawful process don’t belong printed in any newspaper or other media outlet.

“The NRA is opposed to listing the names and addresses of holders of lawfully obtained legal permits to have concealed weapons,” Newman said. “Why would you want or need to list something that was lawfully obtained?

“It’s not a crime, so why would you publish that?”

Prince, who is the editor and publisher of the Madison County Journal, said that information would be valuable to a newspaper in a particular news situation, but not to publish for no reason.

“Say some guy shoots up a school and had a concealed carry permit, that would be a good question that we couldn’t get answered,” Prince said. “There’s an expectation of privacy that citizens deserve, and I don’t think any newspaper in the state would take all the permits and print them for no reason.”

The issue, Prince said, deals more with newspapers and media’s role as government watchdogs or the “fourth estate.”

“It’s more about being a check on the government because thinking about the government keeping secret records on gun owners is a little scary to me,” Prince said. “You’re opening up a can of worms for the government to abuse that power.”

“Our role as the press is to keep a check on government, and if we can’t go down there and inspect those records then we can’t fulfill that role.”

Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, who represents a portion of Adams County, said he has been receiving e-mails and calls from constituents about the bill and would be reviewing it in more detail before the Senate debates.

At first glance, however, Butler said the bill seems to take a step backward in the effort to create a more transparent government.

“We’re always talking about more transparency and that everybody needs to know what’s going on, so I don’t see how this would help us move forward with that,” Butler said. “Once you start something like that it kind of mushrooms out, and then it’ll be more and more records being closed.

“There have been people who’ve worked hard to fight for those records to be available, and now we’re saying we need to close them back?”

An ideal compromise to the bill, Prince said, would involve keeping the records available, but placing a penalty on those who publish them without proper justification.

“It could state by law that they are open to inspection, but it is unlawful to specifically identify anyone in those records or publish that with a fine of $10,000 and five years in prison,” Prince said detailing a hypothetical revision to the bill. “That would stop some random blogger from publishing it, but still allow newspapers and other media the ability to inspect the records if needed.

“Those kinds of things at least need to be discussed because this is a democracy and the people are owed a discussion.”


  • DanH

    Well, just like it seems all the liberal newspaper types want to punish every gun owner and potential gun owner who did nothing to harm anyone due to the actions of a very, very small few, we need to keep every newspaper and potential newspaper from being able to publish the names and addresses of holders of restraining orders, judges, cops and honest citizens.

  • Wilson Phillips

    Personally, I don’t think we should start closing public records. Just make it illegal for anyone to publish them.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with DanH, the newspapers may have a lot of desire to have access but in reality they have NO NEED to know the information. As far as making it illegal like Wilson Phillips and Senator Butler suggest that would amount to closing the gate after the animals have all escaped because there is no guarantee that the names would not be published, only that once convicted there would be fines. If Senator Butler believes in what he said about transparency and if publisher Prince truly believes the news outlets need such access they should push for an amendment to the bill that would make the penalty a mandatory $10,000 per name published and a mandatory jail time of 1 month per name published for both the author and the publisher which might serve as enough deterrent to stop the publishing of a list such as was done in New York.

    Frankly, I support the law as written as there are numerous public records that do not need public access nor will a Freedom of Information request get you access to those records. You don’t see Butler or Prince calling for the Freedom of Information access to the Tax Records of Senators and publishers even though those records are maintained by the State Tax Commission, a public state agency, therefore the “need” for transparency argument is a bunch of baloney and selective at best. If the news organizations truly “need” to know if an accused shooter has a concealed permit then I suggest Senator Butler simply propose an amendment that would include the above penalties for list publication while also stating that the involved law enforcement agency “shall” honor a Freedom of Information request only for a specific named perpetrator within the concealed carry database to confirm or deny to requesting news agencies as to the status of the particular alleged perpetrator. That is ALL of the transparency that is needed, we don’t need and the “news” people don’t need a transparency that allows anyone to peruse public records fishing for something not needed.

    I can full well understand the argument for transparency on Government and it’s decisions as those decisions affect all of us, but I do not nor do I agree with the need for transparency as it relates to individuals personal transactions with government.

  • khakirat

    I see no problem of being listed in the newspaper with address as all other legals this just politics not being sensible is all this is!! Most Republicans are the biggest problem of trying to correct this solution!! To me who ever reads this will know that they best better leave these folks along are they will get some lead coming there way huh”??!!

  • Anonymous


  • Joe Smith

    Prince said “there is an expectation of privacy that citizens deserve, and I don’t think any newspaper in the state would take all the permits and print them for no reason” Well it seems to me thats EXACTLY what that paper in NEW YORK did… of course,maybe not for no reason, but for a reason to expose and vilify law abiding citizens.. once you open that door, your name on a list could show up somewhere and you will feel like your rights were violated, but once its ok to do it against one law abiding group, its open season on the next one that the govt or the media feels is in “the publics” best interest

  • Anonymous

    If you have a gun for protection, why worry about who knows about it? It could be a good thing. Criminals won’t come to your house if they know you have a gun. Kind of like a sign in the yard saying you have security. Right?

  • Anonymous

    Why does owning a gun vilify you? If I had a gun, I’d want everyone to know. Put a sign in the yard — Gun Owner Lives Here!

  • Anonymous

    In addition to all the reasons for denial of purchase of a firearm or permit……if you have ever had a restraining or protective order placed against you or conviction of misdemeanor domestic violence you could/would be denied your right to purchase. Problem is that people go to gun shows or get someone else to buy the firearm for you. If you are turned down for the purchase of a gun then the local Sheriff should be notified by the seller so he can know an individual was attempting to get one. This might prevent a crime of violence. Just sayin!!

  • Wilson Phillips

    Because you can’t stay holed up in your home all the time. Every time you leave, your home would be vulnerable.

  • khakirat

    Some people do put a sign in their yard that says Smith & Wesson protects this property!!

  • khakirat

    Not if you’ve got a few junk yard dogs and a bear trap with a chain locked that way you can see who it is that will loose their leg!! Then call the law to mop up!!

  • khakirat

    Just like in the Army when someone messed up the whole platoon is punished huh”!!

  • khakirat

    Now, thats what I’m talking about!!!!!

  • khakirat

    I really have to admit that this commit is about the best I’ve seen you write and totally agree and you wrote it I know from the heart!! Gosh” I’m impressed your improving!!!

  • khakirat

    Heres another book wrote that I read the first three sentences and stopped-what a mess!!-well I guess I’ll have to say that this person has passion to show a bit of kindness huh”??!!

  • Wilson Phillips

    Frankly, I think you two are one and the same. Same troll, multiple accounts.

  • Wilson Phillips

    Good points.

  • Wilson Phillips

    It is illegal to booby trap your house and property. You make a lot of radical statements for someone that is begging for big government to take away the guns.

  • Anonymous

    Guns are money to the criminal underworld. Posting the addresses of those with guns puts them in line for burglary when they are away from home, and armed home invasion when they are at home. Or, if a given address does not show up in the list, criminals assume the people are not armed, and do as they please. Usually violently.

    One of Gannett’s New York outlets published a list of gun permit holders – and now faces a dozen law suits from crime victims. No, the public does not need that information. And the media does not need the temptation to publish now and pay later.


  • Anonymous

    I believe the delinquent tax lists are published after the information is given to the paper by the tax collectors office. Not sure, however it may even be a requirement of law that the tax office do so. Alternatively, it may be published as a courtesy of the collector’s office, but I feel sure someone pays to have the list published. The divorces, mortgages, etc is listed at the courthouse for anyone to walk in and see, it is a matter of common public knowledge because you can choose to sit in the courtroom and watch divorces during the proceedings. I do not see the concealed carry permits in the same light.

  • Mark McMillen

    By limiting access to gun permit holders to law enforcement only, we would be increasing government power over the individual because then only government officials would have access to such knowledge, giving government privileged knowledge of an individual.

  • Mark McMillen

    That makes no sense. Public records are public, so why would you want to restrict publication of that information? That’s like saying we should allow anyone to know something, but no one can tell you about it. Once you go down this road for gun permits, why stop there? Why not restrict information on lots of other public knowledge. This is a road to extreme corruption.

  • Anonymous


    Fully agree and you said it well, with way less words than I.

  • khakirat

    You don’t know what your talking about for when a person is trespassing and especially in your home and I go along with executive order of our President!!

    In a message dated 2/3/2013 4:43:04 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:


    Wilson Phillips wrote, in response to khakirat:
    It is illegal to booby trap your house and property. You make a lot of radical statements for someone that is begging for big government to take away the guns.

    _User’s website_ ( _Link to comment_ ( rds-laws/#comment-787619279:ggB0U8Q9Em97QBG_KrN23dzfsWc&imp=491cab45-cabb-4f f2-a081-6d7e0262f2f4&zone=notifications.clicks&forum=natchezdemocrat&thread= 1062105348)

  • khakirat

    Terrible situation huh’??!!

    In a message dated 2/3/2013 4:25:52 P.M. Central Standard Time, writes:


    Wilson Phillips wrote, in response to khakirat:
    Frankly, I think you two are one and the same. Same troll, multiple accounts.

    _User’s website_ ( _Link to comment_ ( rds-laws/#comment-787608767:A4hVvmagN0t9i-sS5YHPjz3mMFU&imp=bb78123f-18d4-41 b2-b7a0-7f366799d470&zone=notifications.clicks&forum=natchezdemocrat&thread= 1062105348)

  • CCW

    I am a permit holder. I carry my gun everywhere I go. There is no good reason anyone and I do mean anyone should know I have a gun on me, in my vehicle or in my home. The problem is the libtards. They don’t have anything better to do than to mess with people that oppose there view. If they would get a job like everyone else I would not fell that I need to carry a gun with me.

  • Wilson Phillips

    So you believe that every newspaper in the country should publish the lists of Concealed Carry Permit holders? Why stop there? Why not force gun registration and publish a list of every home that has a gun? Do you want your home listed as one that has a gun and is ripe for picking? Or listed as a vulnerable home that has no guns and is ripe for picking?

  • Wilson Phillips

    Less than a hundred years and so many are willing to ignore or forget these atrocities.

  • Wilson Phillips

    If you have booby traps set, and anyone gets hurt, you will be liable for it. Others have already gone to jail for this. It is illegal to booby trap your property.

    This is no longer fun. You argue with no facts. All you have is an opinion. Please step up your game.

  • Anonymous

    Wilson Phillips, Out of curiosity, are you referring to myself (oldguy54) and khakirat being the same person or to khakirat and dave07deuce07? I can assure you I only have one account.

  • Wilson Phillips

    Not you sir. I was talking about khakirat and dave07deuce07. They both post some ridiculous stuff.

    Several of us believe that dave07deuce07 is not a real person, but a troll account that is used by a white person to play head games with the rest of us.

  • Wilson Phillips

    A very good point indeed.

  • Anonymous

    People need to think about why those spineless liberal goons in Washington are going after law abiding citizens guns . They should really focus on the real issue of disarming criminals aka gangs , drug dealers , etc who possess guns . They are committing all the crimes and murders on the streets in America . Even if you could ban gun sale a criminal could still get a gun to commit crime and murders . What hypocrisy that exists in these government liberals ! Chicago is a perfect example of a city in which criminals with guns have created bedlam . Those liberal , government clowns need to focus on the real issues . Criminals who possess guns are committing all the murders in this country . Hypocrisy runs deeeeeeep in the halls of government . An unarmed citizen population is easier to force and control by the government . It’s all about controlling the larger population and not your safety . If it was about safety they would be going after all the gangs,murderers,drug dealers , etc on the streets who possess firearms and can easily get them . Those government hypocrites !!!