By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -
A Missouri lawmaker says he has filed a bill that he believes will protect the privacy of concealed weapon permit applicants like himself.
"Any time you start collecting and storing data, we know it can be at risk of being compromised," said Missouri Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff.
House Bill 787 would set parameters on what information the Missouri Department of Revenue can collect when someone seeks a conceal-and-carry gun permit and the destruction of any records already collected.
"Privacy rights are incredibly important to Missourians," Richardson said. "We as a legislature want to make sure we have adequate protection in place for Missourians and their personal private information."
A hearing will be held Tuesday about records already collected by the state. This comes after a lawsuit was filed earlier this month challenging a new system that makes a digital record of driver's license applicants' birth certificates and other documents.
Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones attended a news conference at the Capitol on last week with Stoddard County Prosecutor Russell Oliver. Oliver is acting as a private attorney in the lawsuit filed by Eric Griffin, who was trying to get his license renewed in the county to reflect that he'd been approved to carry a concealed weapon.
According to the suit, Griffin fulfilled the requirements for a concealed carry permit and was trying to complete the process by having it added to his driver's license. He provided his application, birth certificate and documents to prove his residency, and was told they would be scanned and saved in a digital format in the Department of Revenue's system. He objected, and filed his lawsuit Monday.
Kinder said the case has statewide importance.
"These folks have followed the letter of the law and been approved for concealed carry by the proper authorities," he said. "They must not be required to share that information with any third parties or the federal government."
The Revenue Department "and the fee office agent have created an illegal hurdle that all applicants across the state of Missouri for a concealed carry permit should not have to overcome," Oliver added, arguing that Griffin shouldn't be forced to provide documents to be scanned and risk putting personal information in jeopardy.
Revenue Department spokesman Ted Farnen said the "department's operations are not inconsistent with the statutory protocols." He declined further comment.
The Revenue Department recently decided to alter Missouri driver's licenses and the process for issuing them to reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud. Changes began at local license offices in December and are being rolled out at about 15 offices each week.
The new procedure also calls for licenses to be mailed.
"Everybody wants a system where we have secure drivers license issuance, where we protect against fraud," Richardson said. "But we have to balance that against a fundamental right to have private information secure ... Anytime you start collecting and storing data, we know it can be at risk of being compromised. We've seen that with credit card and data companies."
He said he doesn't think the benefits outweigh the risks of collecting the information.
The lawsuit alleges that personal and private information about Missouri residents is being collected, retained and disseminated to a third party and the federal government. During his new conference, Oliver said scanning and retaining the documents violates Missouri laws and seems to be an effort to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005.
Oliver said in the past that the clerk would process the information on the documents and then return the documents.
"In the digital age we live in, when you take that information and scan it, it can go in a million different places," Oliver told KCTV5. "Aside from fear of what can be done, it's against state statute."
He said if the Missouri General Assembly passes Richardson's bill then it would correct the situation sooner than Missouri courts could fully hear his lawsuit.
Congress passed the Real ID law because of national security fears. One hijacker-pilot involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had four driver's licenses and ID cards from three states.
But the federal law prompted cost and privacy concerns. In Missouri, a law approved in 2009 prohibits the state from changing driver's license application procedures to comply with the Real ID law. It also requires state government to protect residents' privacy.
Oliver noted that Griffin wants a permit for a small pistol that he does not plan on carrying often.
Oliver said the lawsuit names as the defendant the agent of the license office in Stoddard County and that the restraining order affects that office.
But Missouri Rep. Kevin McManus, a Democrat from Kansas City, said the data that the state is collecting can help fight or prevent identity fraud.
"We've got to balance law enforcement concerns with privacy concerns," said McManus, who is a member of the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee. "I haven't heard any evidence to suggest we need a full scale change in the system."
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