The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 17, 2013

Public access

Efforts to hide public information should be headed off at the pass


— Even in the midst of “Sunshine Week,” a time set aside to celebrate open government and the public’s involvement in it, House Bill 2911 was introduced during a West Virginia legislative session on Tuesday that would limit the public access to records.

The bill seeks an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for all records pertaining to the issuance, renewal, expiration, suspension or revocation of a license to carry a concealed weapon.

It even carries the following note: “The purpose of this bill is to exempt records of concealed weapon license applications and issuance from disclosure under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”

Part of the bill states “all records pertaining to a criminal or mental health history check conducted on any applicant, licensee or past licensee, are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Given the several recent violent events committed by disturbed individuals with documented mental health issues, whom are we protecting?

Hiding information of this nature does not serve the public.

Concealed permits should not be eliminated from Freedom of Information.

We oppose these exemptions.

The bill is sponsored by Delegates Michael Folk, R-Berkeley; Eric Householder, R-Berkeley; Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia; Larry Kump, R-Berkeley; Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley; Dana Lynch, D-Webster; Larry Williams, D-Preston; Jim Butler, R-Mason; Roy Cooper, R-Summers; Scott Cadle, R-Mason; and John H. Shott, R-Mercer.

It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

And it is there we hope it fails to move forward.

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In the spirit of Sunshine Week, we encourage our readers to let their voices be heard on this controversial subject.

Let your lawmakers know how you feel.

Let them know that you’re paying attention to what’s going on at the state Capitol.

You’re informed, and your freedom should be exercised.