Tuesday, March 1, 2011 | 2 a.m.
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When it comes to themselves, state lawmakers opt for the least transparency.
Many legislative documents aren’t subject to the state open records law. Lawmakers’ deliberations are, in many cases, exempt from the open meeting law. And when it comes to deciding whether information on concealed weapons permits should remain public, several lawmakers appeared Monday to base their position on how the release of such information would affect them personally.
Holding the first hearing on Assembly Bill 143, which would make secret the names of weapons permit holders, the lawmakers said they think access to the information poses a safety problem for permit holders despite arguments to the contrary. They used their experiences to back up their argument.
“It was put in the press that certain elected officials had CCWs and our addresses are out there,” said Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas. “I think your arguments for not having confidentiality falls flat, in my opinion, on that.”
“The way it was done in the newspaper was unacceptable — particularly for elected officials,” Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, said, apparently referring to a Sun story in which the names of several permit holders were published with permission from the individuals.
The bill would reverse a Nevada Supreme Court decision, which made the names public. The Reno Gazette-Journal fought to have the records opened after discovering that former Gov. Jim Gibbons had his permit revoked for lying on his application. Gibbons persuaded a friend to sign off that the governor had qualified on multiple weapons when he hadn’t. Gibbons eventually completed the qualifications’ requirement, and his permit was reinstated.
The court decision prompted an outcry from many who carry concealed weapons. Publishing their names would give burglars a reason to target their homes, they said. The National Rifle Association spearheaded an effort to strengthen the confidentiality law.
In the wake of the police shooting at a Summerlin Costco in which concealed weapons permit holder Erik Scott was killed, the Las Vegas Sun last year examined how widespread the use of permits was. The Sun only printed the names of permit holders who gave the newspaper permission to do so. Permit holders included elected officials, casino moguls, mothers, doctors, retired police officers, journalists, lawyers and business owners.
At Monday’s hearing, conservative groups and permit holders testified in favor of the bill. Many said they worried about their safety.
The only organization opposing the bill, the Nevada Press Association, pointed out that these individuals couldn’t be too worried about confidentiality if they would publicly state they had a permit.
“I learned just here today the dangers of having this information public are so great that four people identified themselves as CCW holders,” lobbyist Trevor Hayes said.
Horne wasn’t the only lawmaker to complain about elected officials who carry permits being named publicly.
No lawmaker on the Assembly Judiciary Committee spoke critically of the measure, sponsored by Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno. They appeared poised to quickly pass the bill, but delayed the vote when a last-minute amendment was discovered.