Doesn't share, gets booted. There could be as many as 6,671 Deschutes County citizens walking around legally with concealed handguns. Or maybe there are only 6,156. We have no way of knowing, because the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office gave us the first number and the Oregon State Police gave the second.
We also have no way of knowing who those 6,671, or 6,156, people are because Sheriff Larry Blanton won't release the county's list of holders of concealed-carry permits, even though that information is a public record.
Newspapers in other parts of the state, including The Oregonian, have gotten such lists from other sheriffs. But when we asked Blanton for the Deschutes County list he politely but firmly told us no, claiming such information is exempt from disclosure under the state's public records law.
Why do we want to know? Well, in the first place, that question is beside the point - the point is that we have a right to know, which is clearly spelled out in the law. And that right belongs not just to reporters, but to everybody. As the law states: "Every person has a right to inspect any public record of a public body in this state, except as otherwise expressly provided" under the statute.
Oregon's concealed-carry law - one of the most permissive in the nation - has been in force for about a decade. How well is it working locally? Is it doing a good job of screening out criminals and whack jobs? (The fact that, according to Blanton's own data, 84 permits were denied or revoked in 2006-'07 seems to hint that at least a few slip through.) How good is the record-keeping? The discrepancy between the sheriff's number and the OSP's is reason enough to worry about that.
We're not completely clear on this, but Blanton appears to be resting his case on two paragraphs of the law that exempt "information of a personal nature ... if the public disclosure thereof would constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy" and "information submitted to a public body in confidence and not otherwise required by law to be submitted, where such information should reasonably be considered confidential."
We don't see how releasing the names on the concealed-carry list would be an unreasonable invasion of anybody's privacy or why people who applied for permits should reasonably have expected their names to be kept secret. But we do see how exposing sloppy record-keeping, laxity or favoritism in issuing permits could embarrass a sheriff.
In Klamath County, where the sheriff took the same stance as Blanton, a district court judge has ruled that the Medford Mail-Tribune was entitled to the list. That decision is under appeal; hopefully, the case will end in a definitive Oregon Supreme Court ruling that concealed-carry lists are not exempt.
In the meantime, here's THE BOOT to Sheriff Blanton and his secret list of 6,671, or whatever, names.