Closing records defies Americans right to information

Published 2:00 pm Thursday, February 7, 2013

When government filing cabinets and computers start locking, our great nation loses part of the freedom that makes us America.

Yet, a shocking number of elected officials in the Mississippi House of Representatives appear ready to do just that in response to just one incident hundreds of miles away.

In Mississippi, a list of all residents with a legal permit to carry a concealed weapon is considered a public record. That means you, your neighbor or your newspaper could go look up a name on the list if there were concerns.

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But a bill that passed the Legislature 101-18 aims to take away that right, locking up the information.

The bill stems from the actions of a newspaper in New York, which published the entire list of residents in one area with a concealed carry permit.

That probably wasn’t the right move by that newspaper, but it’s not reason for states across the country to jump up and slam the information door in the public’s face.

As Americans we have a right to information. As a newspaper, we have a right to obtain that information on your behalf when pertinent and with public safety, government spending and the right to know in mind.

Neither the newspaper — nor any we know in Mississippi — has ever considered running a full list of those with concealed carry permits. But the information should be available for review if something were to happen.

Adding limitations on public records in any way is a scary path to walk. If the record exists, it should be public to all, not just to sheriff’s deputies, politicians’ friends and anyone who may know the right person.

If our state leaders start limiting your right to know one thing today, what information will they cover up next?