Our Views: Bills hurt oversight

We see no reason why the names of those who have applied for concealed weapons permits should not be made public. This kind of transparency is one way to advance public accountability for those law enforcement agencies that grant such permits. When the public can easily know who has applied for such permits — and subsequently received them — then law enforcement agencies have a natural incentive to act with due diligence in screening applicants.

But two bills being considered in the current session of the Louisiana Legislature would, if approved, criminalize transparency on this issue, imposing the kind of penalties more befitting a totalitarian regime.

House Bill 8, sponsored by state Rep. Jeff R. Thompson, R-Bossier City, stipulates that unless a court order required it, no law enforcement officer could release any information contained in an application for a concealed handgun permit. Any official who violated that restriction would be subject to a fine of up to $500 or up to six months in prison, or both.

Anyone other than an authorized law enforcement official who publicized information contained in a concealed weapons permit would be subject to a fine of up to $5,000, or imprisonment — possibly with hard labor — for up to two years, or both.

Presumably, a journalist, blogger or private citizen could end up behind bars for trying to shed light on who is getting permits to carry concealed, deadly weapons.

House Bill 98, also sponsored by Thompson, would make it possible for concealed handgun permits issued by the sheriff of one parish to remain in force in contiguous parishes.

HB 98 would impose similar penalties to those contained in HB 8 for those involved in releasing and distributing information contained in concealed handgun permits.

These bills would, if approved, further weaken public oversight of the concealed handgun permitting process. This process needs more accountability, not less, and we urge lawmakers to reject these two bills.