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Jan 24, 2013 7:22 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

MT Senate hears bill on conceal carry permits

HELENA - A Republican lawmaker wants to make sure that people who have concealed carry permits aren't forced to have their personal information disclosed to the public.

It's a proposal that is drawing both support and criticism as legislators are trying to balance the right to privacy with the public right to know.

MT State Senator Eric Moore (R - Miles City) is carrying Senate Bill 145 and asking the Legislature to keep all information on a conceal carry application confidential.

"Article 2 section 10 of the Montana Constitution is titled Right to Privacy," Moore read to the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday. "It states: 'The right of individual privacy is essential to the well being of a free society and shall not be infringed without showing a compelling state interest.' "

Moore says his bill responds to a recent decision by a New York newspaper to publish the names and addresses of everyone in their county who had a gun permit.

"A battered woman hiding from her abuser whose address had been protected by the courts, a police officer whose family is now in jeopardy," Moore outlined cases where gun owners were put at risk because their information was made public. "A witness who testified against a convicted felon being harassed."

Moore says people with conceal carry permits are law abiding citizens and their personal information should not be made public.

However, the Montana Newspaper Association (MNA) disagrees. Executive director John Barrows says MNA is supporting legislation which would prohibit specific addresses from being released, but the names and counties of where conceal carry permit holders live would still be public.

"Article 2 section 9 of the Constitution requires government documents to be open to examination except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure," Barrows testified.

Barrows says in this case the public right to know outweighs the right to privacy.

"Montana has a firm and endearing constitutional right to know that cannot be lightly segregated," Barrows says.

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