On Tuesday Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that exempted firearms records from being released under the Freedom of Information Act, a move that cemented a 1999 decision by the Michigan Supreme Court that found the disclosure of these records to be an invasion of personal privacy.
“We have seen in other states where publication of private information about gun ownership has put those gun owners and their neighbors at risk,” said state Representative Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), who sponsored the bill. “The private records of law-abiding citizens who are practicing their Second Amendment rights will now be protected from public exposure.”
In 2012, a New York newspaper, The Journal News, caused outrage when it published an interactive map of gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties. The information was obtained legally from the county clerk’s offices through Freedom of Information Act requests. Second Amendment advocates sharply criticized the publication for the map, which openly displayed the addresses of many of the 44,000 people registered to own a handgun in the two counties. Many gun owners said they felt violated while others expressed concern that the map could lead to break-ins and burglaries. The fact that the incident happened shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy only intensified the resulting controversy. The Journal News found itself square in the middle of the resurgent gun control debate, and reportedly hired additional security at its office in response to death threats.
According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), 27 state do not allow public access to handgun records (not including the recent addition of Michigan). Vermont and Wyoming do not require gun owners to be licensed for either ownership or concealed carry, so these two states do not maintain a records database. A handful of states are currently considering legislation to restrict public access, including Maine, Montana, and Iowa.