“Masterful exploitation of procedure” or “dirty pool”?

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    For many years the radical gun rights groups have been trying to hide any information on Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) holders from the eyes of the public.  They have been aided in this process by the ever vigilant folks at ALEC, who have been pushing this legislation in state houses around the nation.  The underlying reason used to justify this secrecy has always been the severe threat to the safety of CHP holders posed by unscrupulous newspapers printing the names of local CHP holders.  This supposedly makes them the target for thieves who wish to steal their weapons.  Never mind the repeated assertion, by the same pro gun extremists, that keeping a gun in the home makes thieves less likely to target your home.  The more likely reason, for the attempts to hide this information, center around the embarrassment caused when CHP holders are found to have committed murders or other serious gun crimes while purporting to be members of a select group of the most law abiding and “safe” gun owners in society.  The fact that mass killers like Speight, Nidal Hassan, and many others, who shot to death dozens of people in recent years, all had Virginia Concealed Handgun Permits, must have been a serious embarrassment to those that seek to perpetuate the myth that CHP’s are only being obtained by the cream of the gun owning crop.  Sadly anyone looking at the seriously inadequate application process, that is now little more than a permit vending service, would realize that almost anyone could obtain a CHP these days regardless of their integrity or lack of it!

    In recent years, several bills to hide CHP data have failed to pass muster at the GA, often facing opposition from the likes of; gun violence prevention groups, open government advocates and the press association.  One argument that did have some merit, though it sounded very farfetched, was the idea that a person who takes out a restraining order against a spouse, or other person threatening their life, moves to a new address, purchases a gun for protection and obtains a CHP to “enhance that protection” outside the home, could be endangered by the publishing of their new address in a newspaper.  Ignore for a moment the cumulative improbability of those circumstances all happening in a case where the potential aggressor does not have any other way of finding where there alleged victim now lives, like say the phone book or via mutual acquaintances, friends or relatives, and there may be a point.

    This year Senator Obenshain decided to introduce a bill that was narrowly tailored to prevent exactly that improbable event just described.  The bill (SB1335) would have targeted only those who had restraining orders, had obtained a CHP (and presumably changed address).  It would have hidden their basic information only for the period of the restraining order.  The bill was so narrowly defined that it faced no opposition in the Senate Courts from the usual suspects and was reported out 14-1, eventually passing the Senate by a vote of 39-1.  None of the organizations usually opposed to hiding CHP data bothered to speak against this narrowly worded and finely targeted legislation.

    However, once the bill passed over to the House, that’s when everything changed!  When the bill was placed before the House Militia, Police and Public Safety subcommittee #1, an amendment was offered by the patron, which gutted all the language relating to protective orders and the bill was transformed into a fully fledged “permanently hide the CHP data for every permit holder” bill, which will no doubt pass the full house with ease.  The only way that this bill could still be stopped is if the Speaker of the House, who seems to be the authority on “germaneness” these days, rules that removing the obvious target of narrowly targeted legislation by amendment, makes that amendment “non germane”.  Should that not be possible, then the only chance comes with the joint conference committee which will review the amendment after it passes the house, but the effectiveness of that depends on the selection of committee members.

    Don’t get me wrong, I too think that publishing lists of CHP holders with no valid reason, has little or no value to the public welfare, but you decide – was this “masterful exploitation of procedure”, to get a piece of legislation through the Senate that would have had a poor chance of passing, or was this dirty pool?