Sunday, August 01, 2010

Oregon CHL Privacy Rights ... or Wrongs?

I recently received a forwarded email from friend Marc, which seems to have originated from "The Jacobe Group" (an Oregon "Firearms Training" organization).

While I know little about the "group" (I have met Jim Jacobe) and I have not researched the bill referenced, I'll present the email "as received". I'll have a couple of comments at the end.

Note that all links and references were embedded in the original text; nothing has been added. Nothing has been removed or deleted, either, except the Jacobe Group banner which was included at the end of the original email. The intend here is NOT to recommend or denigrate individuals or organizations.

{Politicians fit in neither category.}

Before we start, here's the summary for HB2727:

The following summary is not prepared by the sponsors of the measure and is not a part of the body thereof subject to consideration by the Legislative Assembly. It is an editor's brief statement of the essential features of the measure as introduced.
Prohibits public body from releasing information that can be used to identify holder of or applicant for concealed handgun license. Authorizes disclosure for criminal justice purposes and pursuant to court order.
Relating to records of concealed handgun licenses.
Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:
SECTION 1. A public body as defined in ORS 192.410 may not disclose records or information that can be associated with the identity of a current holder of, or an applicant for, a concealed handgun license unless:
(1) The disclosure is necessary for criminal justice purposes; or
(2) A court enters an order in a pending civil or criminal case directing the public body to disclose the records or information.
(Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? Ten lines, no waiting.)

Here is the April 24 version, which I take to be the 'amended' version. Not 10 lines, but 11 pages ... includes the entire text of a CHL application, and 'exceptions', starting out with the proviso that it amends ORS 192.502 . In fact, it contains the entire text of the existing law, as ammended by this bill (look for the 'bold face' text). Essentially, it 'exempts from public disclosure' a plethora of public records, specifying exactly what information is and is not protected. Not a list of names, but details. Thankfully, at least Social Security Numbers are protected from exposure -- except in certain circumstances. The part which applies to CHL starts at the bottom of page 6.)

This appears to be the change in law, in the amendment proposed by Steiger:
(35) Records or information that identify a person as a holder of, or an applicant for, a concealed handgun license issued under ORS 166.291 and 166.292. This exemption does not apply if the party seeking disclosure:
(a) Requests records or information pursuant to a subpoena or court order; or
(b) Shows by clear and convincing evidence that the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance. In making this determination, the custodian shall consider any information provided by an affected holder of, or applicant for, a concealed handgun license.
Comments about the changed text appended at the bottom of this page. But you'll have to search the contents of ORS 192.410 for yourself. The main difference seems to the wording in the second clause, which changes from "a court order" in "a pending criminal or civil case" (original text) versus "Public Interest".

But what is a legitimate "Public Interest"? Aye, there's the rub. And what does it mean that "the custodian shall consider any information provided"?

Here is the text of the email:



Please help us retire Judy Steigler and elect Jason Conger.

As you may have heard, the Jackson County Sheriff has lost his battle to protect the private information of concealed handgun licensees.

The Medford Mail Tribune has demanded, and now will receive, the names, addresses, phone numbers and occupations of license holders in Jackson County. They may also demand this same information for the entire state, as can anyone, "newspaper," "reporter" or thief. (Many applicants included their Social Security numbers. It is not at all clear if these will be avalable as well.)

This info was demanded so the Tribune could "out" as many teachers as possible after the Oregon Firearms Educational Foundation funded a lawsuit to protect the rights of a Medford teacher.

Most sheriffs have taken steps to safeguard this information from future snooping, but those efforts have not yet faced legal scrutiny. So for now, if you are a license holder, your privacy is very much in jeopardy.

There is no reason this information should be available to the public. These are not records of "government activity" as has been falsely claimed by the "Tribune" and the ACLU. These are records of private information, extorted by the state in order for Oregonians to exercise what should be a right. There is no more a need for this information to be in the public domain than should be your tax records.

In 2009, House Rep's Kim Thatcher and Jeff Barker introduced HB 2727 to make this data private. The bill had broad bipartisan support and seemed to be a sure thing, until House Rep Judy Steigler (D Bend), stepped in to torpedo it. Later Steigler blamed voters who strongly supported the bill for its failure! Steigler was also responsible for the death of a bill in 2009 that would have had Oregon recognize other states' concealed handgun licenses, a bill that was strongly supported by the Oregon Sheriffs Association.

In 2011, CHL privacy legislation will almost surely be reintroduced. But we need to do all we can to make sure Steigler is not around to kill this important bill. That's why OFFPAC is asking that you do all you can to help return Steigler to private practice and replace her with someone who respects gun rights.

Frankly, Steigler has done more to damage progress on gun rights in Oregon than even Ginny Burdick, whose efforts to attack gun owners have been almost exclusively failures except when she had millions in out of state money and the help of John McCain. (2000's Measure 5)

If you live in Steigler's district, obviously, you can vote against her, but no matter where you live, you can help her opponent Jason Conger.

Remember, the laws are made by legislators whether they are in your district or not. We believe substantial progress would have been made in 2009 except for the actions of Steigler and we hope you will help us replace her.

Conger has answered our survey 100%. OFFPAC is asking that you consider the most generous donation you can make to help send Judy home and elect Jason Conger. You can contribute directly to Conger's campaign here.

Comments on the content:

Personally, I don't see a lot wrong with the amended version. Again, I haven't checked the referenced ORS 192.410 and in law, context is important. Still, the differences may be more significant than they appear on the surface. Unfortunately, I can't parse the difference because I am not a lawyer. (My folks raised me better.)

When I followed the links provided in the original email, I noticed that most of them referenced the "OFF" or Oregon Firearms Federation. I know little about them; what I do know is 2nd hand, and not worth relating to you here.

But I did pay special attention to one post on that website, that which was referenced in the phrase "... Steigler blamed voters ..."

(I don't know much about Judy Steigler, either, except what I find on her legislator page.)

While I have to admit that Steigler's comments, if accurately quoted (and I have no reason to think that they were not), seemed dismissive of the person to whom she is replying -- and I don't have the text of that communication, either -- the tone of the purported email doesn't sound likely to have been composed by a staff which is concerned with the possible re-election chances for their boss.

On the other hand, I have no idea whether Rep. Steigler has a 'staff', or if they are sufficiently competent to protect their boss, or whether Steigler is the actual author of the purported email.

If she did, in fact, write the email it doesn't speak well for her judgment. But as I said, I don't know and I have not yet found a disclaimer on the Internet or on Rep. Steigler's website.

Steigler mentioned that the bill (to protect the privacy of Oregon CHL holders by legally refusing to list their identities to anyone, either a private person or a 'public' organization, such as a newspaper) "... didn't have a chance of passing even one chamber of the Legislature ... ". Truth or fiction? I have no way of knowing. I am not a politician (my folks raised me better) and I haven't been following the bill (HB2727).

The crux of the story seems to be this: Steigler seemed to think that voters who adamantly refused to allow public release of the information available from the office of Sheriff of the individual counties, relating to the people in those counties who have applied for and received a CHL (Concealed Handgun License ... or permit to carry a concealed handgun) ... were not only being unrealistic, but also obstreperous at a minimum -- and probably "part of the problem" rather than offering a solution which was acceptable to CHL holders.

In expressing her opinion, Steigler unfortunately used such phrases as " ... your caustic remarks ...", "... rather than solving a problem, you sacrifice the legitimate concerns of the vast majority of CHL holders to move a political agenda ...", " ... it is the efforts of citizens themselves which often keep anything from happening ..." and (perhaps most insulting) "... it is folks such as yourself that have doomed this bill ...".

In other words, citizens who have strong opinions should keep those opinions to themselves rather than to make their feelings known to their legislative representative. Apparently, knowing that a voter cares enough about the output of farm animals and legislators to actually speak their objection ... is objectionable to their representative. Or their farm animal, I guess, except that a farm animal has market value.

Would that we could say the same for our legislators.

On the other hand, we don't vote for farm animals, we buy them. Our legislators ... hey, maybe they aren't that different after all!

I hadn't planned for this to be a diatribe ending the same way the email did, but if we can't buy our legislators (the same way Unions and Newspapers can), maybe we should seriously consider voting the rascals out?

Politicians and Diapers have this in common:
They should be changed frequently, and for much the same reason.

Just saying ....

Ultimately, the question boils down to 2 points:
  1. What are the real differences between the second clauses of the two versions; and
  2. What is it with this State Representative of The People, who finds it so fulfilling to deliberately insult her constituents?

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