A new law that recently passed in South Carolina exempts names of concealed weapons permit holders from the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
The bill, signed into law on April 16, bars the public from knowing the names of the more than 60,000 permit holders in the state. Access is limited to law enforcement officials or through a court order only.
Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, said proponents of the measure were prompted by a March 2007 column on the Roanoke Times’ Web site, which linked to the more than 130,000 permit holders in Virginia. The link was quickly removed after backlash from the public and gun enthusiasts.
“Privacy trumped open government,” Rogers said. And the publishing of the list "was the incendiary device that pushed it over the top.”
Rogers said the bill’s enactment was one of his “greatest fears."
“This is the first state license that has ever been held secret — how ridiculous,” he said. “You get a state license and then the public can’t find out who has that license. It really opens up for abuse in the future."
Throughout the bill’s legislative journey, Rogers said his organization pushed for a compromise, such as setting up an oversight committee. Those discussions, however, “got absolutely no traction,” and the bill went forward without much delay, he said.