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State closer to enacting handgun information bill

SALEM — A bill to ban the release of concealed handgun license information to the public appears to be headed for the Senate floor, but it's no longer the complete ban passed earlier by the Oregon House.

The Senate Rules Committee held a work session on the bill late Tuesday and passed it to the full Senate.

The Legislature had targeted today as the final day of its historic, even-year session, but since several important bills are still to be considered, it's uncertain whether lawmakers will reach their goal.

House Bill 4045 was heavily amended on the Senate side and is no longer an outright ban on the release of records.

That version had been sought in the House by Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who carried the bill to the House floor.

The ammended version would make requests for concealed handgun license records a public records request, with a number of restrictions.

The bill would allow limited releases, including under court order, when a license holder gives consent in writing and when public bodies exchange the information for criminal justice purposes.

The bill is in response to a Mail Tribune lawsuit against Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters filed in 2007 after he refused to release a list of concealed handgun permit holders. In 2010, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a Jackson County Circuit Court ruling that determined Winters had no right to deny the request because the licenses are public records.

Thatcher attended the Senate committee meeting but did not testify. She was disappointed the bill was not the outright ban.

"That was not going to happen," she said later. "We just couldn't go there, unfortunately. I wish we could have left it there and saw the original bill move through, intact, but it was not going to happen that way. With two pending requests out there, this protects their records and also protects them into the future."

Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, had pleaded on the House floor for the Senate president to assign the bill to committee.

"This is great," he said after the meeting. "Sometimes things take a long time to get through the process down here."

No matter the outcome of the bill on the Senate floor, Thatcher said she'll try again for an outright ban next session.

"Absolutely," she said.

Steve Lindsley covers the Legislature in Salem for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at steveoregonnews@comcast.net.