Last week, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 97-1 to pass a bill restricting public access to the names of concealed weapons permit holders and allowing circuit court clerks to use their own discretion when releasing the names of the permit holders.
The bill initially aimed to prevent access to a state police database of concealed weapons permit holders, but would have allowed access to these records through the courts. The amendment now limits access to only the names of the permit holders with no other personal information available.
The issue arose after The Roanoke Times published a database with the names of permit holders on its Web site. The South Carolina state House is considering a similar bill that was introduced after a local lawmaker found out about the Times story.
Jennifer Perkins, head of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, criticized the bill, arguing that this information is a matter of public interest.
“[We] opposes this amendment because it removes information that should be available from public view and because in our experience, a discretionary exemption results in being utilized as a mandatory exemption 99.9 percent of the time,” Perkins said.