by Dan Lucas
A number of decades ago, my wife was the victim of a violent sexual assault by a stranger. The perpetrator went to prison. Over the years, she has worked very hard to deal with the lasting effects of the trauma. In addition to a lot of counseling and support, one of the pivotal moments in overcoming her fears was her decision to obtain a concealed handgun license (CHL) to be able to defend herself. As one of the people who have supported her over the years, I know very well the private hell she has had to overcome, and her courage humbles me.
Now my wife has made the courageous and conscious decision to speak out on CHL privacy to help protect others who cannot, just as she did when she agreed to testify to help convict her perpetrator so he could not harm others.
One of the others she’s speaking out for is the daughter of a friend of ours who is also a sexual assault victim. The daughter now has a handgun to protect herself, but she is too terrified to obtain a CHL, and so she is only able to protect herself when she’s at home. The reason she is too terrified to obtain a CHL is because she’s afraid her private information will be made public, and the amount of private information on a CHL application is staggering.
It’s not an unreasonable fear – newspapers in other states, including Tennessee and Virginia, have made CHL holder’s private information available on the internet. In Oregon, Multnomah County turned over their entire database of 12,000 CHL holders to the Oregonian in 2007, and the Oregonian then went on to use CHL holder’s private information to harass school teachers in Multnomah County.
A few weeks ago, the Oregon House voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill that protects the privacy of concealed handgun license (CHL) holders: HB 2787. The 42 to 18 vote was bi-partisan, and the bill was submitted at the request of the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association. The bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha), explained “As a retired police officer with over 31 years of law enforcement experience in Oregon, I can tell you that concealed handgun license holders pose no threat to their neighbors. There is absolutely no need for their license information to be made public.”
The bill has now moved to the Senate, where it has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite the overwhelming, bi-partisan support in the House, Senate President Pro Tempore Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) is opposing the bill, stating erroneously that “If HB 2787 is passed, victims of domestic violence will be unable to check if their attackers carry a concealed weapon.”
Her statement is wrong. Persons guilty of domestic violence are not allowed to even own guns, let alone have a CHL. Additionally, anyone who even has a restraining order or stalking complaint against them cannot have a CHL. On top of that, revealing law-abiding citizen’s private CHL information does nothing to help you know who might be carrying a gun. It only tells you who can legally carry a concealed gun – and there are many people with a CHL who rarely or never actually carry concealed. It does nothing to tell you if someone has guns in their home – no CHL is required for that. Most importantly, it does nothing to let you know who is illegally carrying a gun – and these, of course, are the people who are actually dangerous.
Sen. Burdick’s opposition to the bill actually has the effect of making victims of domestic violence more vulnerable – because if they choose to legally defend themselves by obtaining a CHL, their private information can be made public to the very person they are seeking to defend themselves from – including the fact that they have a CHL. Sen. Burdick’s opposition to the bill also has the effect of leaving sexual assault victims and many other innocent Oregonians more vulnerable for the same reasons.
This is not the first time Sen. Burdick has come out on the wrong side of victims. In the last session, Sen. Burdick voted for the early release of prisoners (HB 3508). When it passed, this bill led to untold re-suffering by victims and the families of victims who had to relive their nightmares when they faced returning to courtrooms for the early release hearings. Suffering like the suffering caused to Janet Tremain when she had to plead with a judge to keep the man locked up who killed her daughter Kimberly in a hit-and-run. Suffering like Janyce Iturra, mother of murder victim Aaron Iturra. Janyce was notified that Mary Thompson, the mastermind of her son’s murder, was scheduled to receive an early release hearing. Janyce replied “I have been re-victimized, this time not by Mary Thompson, but by the Oregon Legislature.”
As the husband of a sexual assault survivor and as a dad to daughters I hope never are, I really don’t appreciate Sen. Burdick’s efforts to keep crime victims and innocent Oregonians defenseless, and I don’t appreciate her callous disregard for victims’ suffering.