And now, just over six months after the news out of New York caused an uproar across the nation, the Associated Press in Montana, with little fanfare, quietly asked Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (R-MT) for a list of all concealed weapons permit holders in the State of Montana, and other sensitive data.
A source outside of the Montana Department of Justice sent me a copy of this memo stating the Attorney General’s opinion that a release of permit holders information would violate the Constitutional right to privacy. (h/t Gary Marbut, Montana Shooting Sports Association)
After obtaining the memo I reached out to John Barnes, the Communications Director for Attorney General Tim Fox. Barnes confirmed that two entities, the Associated Press, and a Boston outfit called “MuckRock News,” had requested information on all concealed weapons permit holders in Montana.
I found it interesting this morning. Instead of asking the question, “why is the government collecting this type of list containing private information on 30,000 Montanans, and then providing the option to release that data to the public?” The response by the Montana Newspapers Association was instead to testify *against* a gun owner confidentiality bill sponsored by State Sen. Eric Moore (R-Miles City).
I wonder- did the MNA, shall we say, jump the gun in testifying against this bill? Is this how your small town (or big town) Montana newspaper feels about your privacy and your Constitutional rights, both state and Federal?
You can click here to read the full testimony by the MNA. As promised in an earlier post, I reached out to Sen. Moore. I also reached out to Gary Marbut with the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) for his reaction. Below are there comments.
Here’s an additional comment to add to this post: Montana Attorney General Tim Fox is also supporting efforts to protect gun owner confidentiality. Communications Director John Barnes said via e-mail, “Attorney General Fox is a strong supporter of a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms under both the federal and Montana constitutions. He supports legislative efforts to protect the confidentiality of any information that could be used to publicly identify firearm owners.”
State Sen. Eric Moore (R-Miles City):
As I testified before the committee, this is a fairly straightforward bill. Article II, section 10 of the Montana Constitution states that the right to privacy shall not be infringed “without the showing of a compelling state interest.”
Simply put, nobody has shown me, including the 2 newspapers who testified against the bill today, any compelling state interest for the public to know the names and addresses of law abiding Montanans who choose to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Furthermore, recent events in Westchester county, New York demonstrate the very real consequences of not passing this bill. Montanans who find themselves victims of stalkers, abusive spouses, families of correction system employees should not have to choose between lawfully obtaining a concealed carry permit to protect themselves, and having their name and address on the cover of the paper. That is why the Montana Association of Counties, and the Montana Sheriff’s and Peace Officer’s Association, and well as several local citizens, testified in favor of the bill.
Gary Marbut, Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA):
MSSA supports SB 145, both as a practical matter and because of the right to privacy in the Montana Constitution. As a practical matter, putting the identity and discoverable addresses of people with concealed weapon permits into the public domain could endanger women with stalkers, and retired police officers and prosecutors who have helped put bad people in prison. It also places at higher risk people who are also identified as NOT being so well prepared to defend themselves and their homes.
Dan Boyce with Montana Public Radio also has a post up on the topic after attending today’s hearing. Click here for his report.