The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) has sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to county circuit clerks across the Commonwealth asking to obtain information about Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) holders before the data is sealed on July 1.
State Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Virginia) sponsored a bill (SB-1335) to keep these records private, and this bill was passed and signed into law – set to become effective July 1, 2013. The law was written in an effort to protect the private information attached to CHP requests by preventing disclosure of the data.
With all of the hullabaloo lately about citizens’ privacy, this seems to be an extremely bad move on the part of the Virginia Republican Party. It’s believed that they have already mined this data in previous years so that they could send political materials to like-minded individuals. If this is the case, then why don’t they just go with their list from last year and leave the issue alone?
Efforts are underway to send requests to circuit clerks requesting that they do not honor the FOIA requests, and a request has also been sent to the RPV asking that they rescind their request. If the RPV does no rescind the request, Joseph Womack has vowed to file a motion in Prince George County seeking an injunction to stop the release of CHP holder information.
Several circuit clerks are essentially on record indicating that they will not respond to the RPV request, or will respond in a way that does not include the information that the RPV is seeking. Here is a list of those counties as of this posting:
Isle of Wight
City of Virginia Beach
Requests have been sent to several others (I personally sent a similar request via email to the King George County Clerk), but no response has yet been received.
This is the FOIA request sent by the RPV
This is the letter sent by Joseph Womack to the Prince George County Clerk
And here’s a copy of the email that I sent to the King George County Clerk:
Hello Mr. Mason,
It has come to my attention that the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV)
has sent requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting
private details related to Concealed Handgun Permit (CHP) holders in every
county in Virginia. If you are in receipt of this letter, which was dated
on or around June 6, 2013, I urge you NOT honor the request from the RPV.
You're likely aware that a law was passed by our General Assembly to
protect this data which goes into effect on 1 July, 2013. This FOIA
request by the RPV is clearly an attempt to mine this data just before the
new law goes into effect.
As a party with standing in this matter, as my data is at risk of being
disclosed, I urge you to refuse to comply with this request.
Please let me know if you do or do not intend to provide this information
to Mr. Reedy of the RPV.
Thank you for your time and for your service to our county.