RENO, Nev. (AP) - Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley's refusal to
discuss the flawed handling of Gov. Jim Gibbons' concealed weapons
permit is focusing attention on a state confidentiality law that is
interpreted differently from county to county.
Last week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Gibbons temporarily surrendered his permit over the winter after it was found he hadn't completed the legally required training for each of his nine handguns.
Gibbons, a Republican, later completed the necessary training and and was issued a proper permit.
Haley has declined to comment on the status of Gibbons' permit, and has interpreted the confidentiality law so broadly that he also won't discuss whether his office took action against the firearms instructor who improperly signed off on Gibbons' weapons proficiency test in order for him to obtain the permit.
Under Nevada law, "an application for a permit and all information contained within that application" is confidential.
In a story that ran on its Web site Sunday, the Gazette-Journal reported that Haley and some other Nevada sheriffs interpret that to mean the public doesn't have the right to know whether an individual has a concealed weapon permit.
Sheriffs in Clark, Humboldt and Pershing counties also will not disclose whether an individual has a permit. But sheriffs in Elko, Douglas, White Pine and Lincoln counties will make such disclosures.
Others, including the sheriffs in Carson City and Storey County, said they have never encountered the issue before.
"I follow whatever state law says," Elko Sheriff Dale Lotspeich told the Gazette-Journal. "With the exception of personal information, that is public information."
Twenty-eight states have laws making permit information confidential, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Gibbons' ability to obtain a permit without following the legal requirements is a perfect example why the public should have access
to permit information, said Barry Smith, executive director of the
Nevada Press Association.
"How else do you hold people accountable to know whether the
procedures are being followed or not?" he asked. "Government can't be accountable just to itself."
Information about who holds a permit in Nevada is not closed by the confidentiality clause in state law, Smith added.
"To me, it is clearly an open record," he said.
Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick, whose office provides legal counsel to Haley, said criminals would use permit information to steal guns.
"We don't want to let out in the public where guns are, what type of guns they are," Gammick told the Gazette-Journal. "We do have a criminal element out there who wants to know where to go to do what they do."
Ashley Varner, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, said her group also opposes the release of information on who has a
"These are law-abiding citizens who have been found to be safe,
lawful and responsible," Varner said. "When we allow someone to
publish a list of names, maybe addresses, and the fact they have
permits to carry concealed weapons, we have violated that person's
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press, disagrees.
"They license these things for a reason," Dalglish told the Gazette-Journal. "When someone holds a license from the government, whether it's for cutting hair or licensing a bicycle, it should be public. The public needs the ability to exercise oversight over the licensing scheme."
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)