WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), successfully included an amendment to (S. 649) that protects law abiding gun owners across the nation from having their private gun ownership information released to the public. The amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 67 to 30.
Barrasso’s amendment # 717 specifically withholds 5-percent of Community Oriented Policing Services program funding if a state or local government publicly releases information on individuals that have licenses to purchase, possess, or carry firearms. The withheld money will be redistributed to compliant states. The amendment also has a criminal investigation and court proceedings exception.
Excerpts from Senator Barrasso’s recent remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding his amendment:
“I rise today to speak about this amendment which to me is very simple and very straightforward. This amendment is designed to protect the privacy and the safety of law-abiding gun owners.
“If a State or local government releases private information on gun owners-which we know has happened-then that State or local government will lose part of its funding that comes from the Federal Government. This includes private information on individuals who have licenses to purchase, possess, or carry firearms.
“Again and again we have seen the irresponsible release of gun ownership information. Most recently, a newspaper published an interactive map of data received by government officials of gun owners in various parts of New York.
“One may wonder how the publication got such a list. They obtained this sensitive list from county officials. The map included the names and addresses of individuals who have firearm permits in the counties involved.
“These individuals—law-abiding gun owners, retired law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence—all had this information about their private lives released.
“The release of this information by county government did nothing to increase public safety and, in fact, I believe the government compromised public safety. By releasing the names and addresses, I believe the government put these permit holders and their families at risk. It also put a mark on the backs of their neighbors who may not have any firearms. Eventually, this newspaper took the map down, but the damage was already done.
“In January of this year, a criminal attempted to burglarize a home in White Plains, NY. The homeowner was in his seventies and his gun information was released on the Internet. Less than a week later, also earlier this year, in January-another home in New City, NY, that was disclosed on the Internet was robbed. This time, the robber successfully stole two handguns and two firearm permits-legally obtained firearm permits now stolen.
“The timing of the disclosure and the robberies clearly appears to be more than just a coincidence. These criminals had the names, addresses, and a map. That is all they needed. And where did they get it? Because of the release of the information by the government. This, to me, was an irresponsible disclosure.
“It goes beyond that. They have also released information that put a victim of domestic violence at risk. According to a New York State Senator, the county officials also disclosed the name and the location of a victim of domestic violence who had a legal gun permit.
“Throughout my medical career I have treated victims of domestic violence. I have seen firsthand the importance of not disclosing the location of victims of domestic violence. Often they move among a network of safe houses. They start a new life in a new city.
“This individual was so threatened that she contacted her State Senator, for one. While I don't know the specifics of her case, I do know there was someone in her life who posed a threat that warranted a gun permit. Victims of domestic violence should never have their location disclosed by State or county officials-not under any circumstances I can think of.
“As you can see from these examples, there are many unintended consequences that put the public at risk. The county officials were irresponsible, in my opinion, and they certainly did not increase public safety. I believe they harmed it.
“This release of private gun ownership information not only puts the lives of gun owners and law enforcement victims of domestic violence at risk, but also their unarmed neighbors.”
“While this information clearly involves gun owners, it is about privacy and our rights as individual citizens. It is about protecting the privacy of law-abiding citizens who are exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
Recently, gun owner information released by officials in New York was made public. Information released by county officials included the names and addresses of individuals that have firearm permits in those counties. The release of the names and addresses of gun owners did not increase public safety. Individuals identified in the release included law-abiding gun owners, retired law enforcement and victims of domestic violence.
Releasing private gun ownership information by government officials is not isolated to New York. It does not further a public safety concern and in fact, may put law-abiding, responsible citizens at more risk.