Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013

Floor Speech

By:  John Barrasso
Date: April 17, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BARRASSO. Madam President, I rise today to speak about this amendment which to me is very simple and very straightforward. This amendment is designed to protect the privacy and the safety of law-abiding gun owners.

If a State or local government releases private information on gun owners--which we know has happened--then that State or local government will lose part of its funding that comes from the Federal Government. This includes private information on individuals who have licenses to purchase, possess, or carry firearms.

Again and again we have seen the irresponsible release of gun ownership information. Most recently, a newspaper published an interactive map of data received by government officials of gun owners in various parts of New York. One may wonder how the publication got such a list. They obtained this sensitive list from county officials. The map included the names and addresses of individuals who have firearm permits in the counties involved.

These individuals--law-abiding gun owners, retired law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence--all had this information about their private lives released. The release of this information by county government did nothing to increase public safety and, in fact, I believe the government compromised public safety. By releasing the names and addresses, I believe the government put these permitholders and their families at risk. It also put a mark on the backs of their neighbors who may not have any firearms. Eventually, this newspaper took the map down, but the damage was already done.

In January of this year, a criminal attempted to burglarize a home in White Plains, NY. The homeowner was in his seventies and his gun information was released on the Internet. Thankfully, the robber did not successfully steal the firearms. Less than a week later--also earlier this year, in January--another home in New City, NY, that was disclosed on the Internet was robbed. This time, the robber successfully stole two handguns and two firearm permits--legally obtained firearm permits now stolen.

The timing of the disclosure and the robberies clearly appears to be more than just a coincidence. These criminals had the names, addresses, and a map. That is all they needed. And where did they get it? Because of the release of the information by the government.

This, to me, was an irresponsible disclosure.

It goes beyond that. They have also released information that put a victim of domestic violence at risk. According to a New York State Senator, the county officials also disclosed the name and the location of a victim of domestic violence who had a legal gun permit.

Throughout my medical career I have treated victims of domestic violence. I have seen firsthand the importance of not disclosing the location of victims of domestic violence. Often they move among a network of safe houses. They start a new life in a new city. This individual was so threatened that she contacted her State Senator, for one. While I don't know the specifics of her case, I do know there was someone in her life who posed a threat that warranted a gun permit. Victims of domestic violence should never have their location disclosed by State or county officials--not under any circumstances I can think of. This, to me, is a perfect example of the unintended consequences of a government releasing sensitive information.

As we can see from these examples, there are many unintended consequences that put the public at risk. The county officials were responsible, in my opinion, and they certainly did not increase public safety. I believe they harmed it.

So now we have two handguns that were stolen in the hands of criminals because of the fact that the list was released and then made public in a broader way. We now have a victim of domestic violence whose identity and location have been disclosed. This release of private gun ownership information not only puts the lives of gun owners and law enforcement and victims of domestic violence at risk but also their unarmed neighbors.

I bring this amendment to the floor. While this information clearly involves gun owners, it is about privacy and our rights as individual citizens. It is about protecting the privacy of law-abiding citizens who are exercising their Second Amendment rights. So today I ask my colleagues to support this amendment.

AMENDMENT NO. 719

I also wish to say a word about another amendment proposed earlier that we will be voting on later today which has to do with the concealed carry issue. I have a Washington Post front-page story from this past Saturday, April 13, and the article quotes a Member of this body. It is a front-page article that carries over. It says: ``Somebody could come from Wyoming''--well, I am a Senator from Wyoming. ``Somebody could come from Wyoming to the big cities of New York or New Haven or Bridgeport and carry a concealed weapon.''

As a surgeon, I did some of my surgical training in New Haven and Bridgeport. So I am a Senator from Wyoming, and it mentions places where I did my surgical training, and I do have a concealed carry permit issued by the State of Wyoming.

I bring this to the attention of this body to say that I would, with this concealed carry permit, under the amendment I support, be able to carry concealed in Wyoming as well as if I returned to the place where I got some of my surgical training. What we need to have is this sort of reciprocity.

In Wyoming, we don't just hand out permits such as this. There is an entire regimen an individual must go through to obtain a concealed carry permit. First, a person has to prove they are proficient in handling a firearm by taking a course and getting signed off by a certified inspector, complete an application, pay a fee, and then of course submit fingerprints to the FBI for an evaluation. So a person has to go through all of those things. I will tell my colleagues, criminals do not apply for concealed carry permits. Criminals issue their own.

If an individual is currently prohibited by Federal law from carrying a firearm, they are going to continue to be prohibited under this amendment. This amendment allows law-abiding individuals to lawfully carry concealed firearms across State lines while following the laws of the host State. Just like a driver's license, this amendment is a license for self-defense across State lines in accordance with State laws.

I encourage my colleagues to vote in support of my amendment as well as the one we just heard about from Senator Cornyn about concealed carry.

With that, I yield the floor.

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