by David Holley, The Oregonian Monday November 10, 2008, 6:28 PM
Washington County's sheriff is asking 10,000 people who hold concealed handgun licenses whether they want their names made public if it is requested as an Oregon public record.
Sheriff Rob Gordon said he believes that people obtain these licenses as a security measure, which would exempt the release of their names. But a circuit court in Jackson County ruled in April that people have to document that the license is for security reasons in order to be exempt from public records law.
On Friday, license holders will be mailed letters asking them to say whether they obtained the license for security reasons, and whether they want their information kept confidential.
"Instead of going through the process of saying that it's implied, we're going though the process of getting the documentation that says that it is," said Sgt. Vance Stimler, public information officer at the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
When The Mail Tribune in Medford requested names of concealed handgun license holders as a public record in 2007, the Jackson County Sheriff refused the request based on Oregon law that states records are not public if they could reveal a person's security measures or weaknesses. But Jackson County's Circuit Court ruled that each individual must specify that he or she doesn't want any personal information released. If not, their names are public record.
The ruling is now in front of the Oregon Court of Appeals. No court date is set.
If each applicant requests to keep their information private, then Oregon law will allow the Washington County Sheriff's Office to reject a request for names of license holders, Stimler said.
"Essentially we follow the law and the law stated that people had personal protection reasons for getting them," Stimler said. "We're just trying to follow the interpretation."
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office will confirm that a person has a concealed handgun license if someone calls with a name, said Deputy Paul McRedmond, public information officer. They approve public record requests for general release of names on a case-by-case basis.
In Clackamas County, the sheriff's office will release the information for properly made requests, said Det. Jim Strovink, public information officer.
Both counties are considering Washington County's idea and plan to discuss whether they will implement something similar.
License holders in Washington County can answer the privacy questions on the sheriff's office Web site, at http://washtech.co.washington.or.us/handgunholder/
The Jackson County Civil Court case stems from the news that broke in 2007 about a Medford teacher with a concealed handgun license who wanted to bring a handgun onto school property for personal security reasons.
-- David Holley; firstname.lastname@example.org