Well, the title says it all, are Missouri bureaucrats handing over gun owner information to the federal government?
The answer is that it’s difficult to say at this point what’s going on. Although, to paraphrase Bill Shakespeare, ‘There is something rotten in The Show Me State.’
To explicate, on Tuesday, concerned lawmakers in the state senate subpoenaed records from the Missouri Department of Revenue, requesting all documents “between the Department of Revenue and any federal agency, including but not limited to, the Department of Homeland Security or FEMA, regarding changes in procedures for the issuance of Missouri driver’s license or non-driver identification cards.”
These lawmakers have reason to believe that the Revenue Department is turning over documents to DHS to satisfy the criteria of a grant that’s issued under the federal Real ID law, even though the legislature enacted a bill in 2009 that prohibits the state government from sharing certain personal information with the feds.
In short, the state Senate wants some answers.
“We’re serious about our role in this process and they need to answer some questions,” said Senate Leader Tom Dempsey, as reported by MissouriNet.com. “What we want to get is the documentation, basically, that they’re submitting to the federal government for this Homeland Security grant and if they’re trying to implement the Real ID provisions.”
So, how’d it get to this point?
Earlier this month, a gun owner by the name of Eric Griffin was at his local DMV in Stoddard County hoping to get his driver’s license to reflect that he’d been recently approved to carry a concealed firearm. He gave the DMV agent his CCW application and his birth certificate along with other documentation to prove his place of residency.
Upon looking over the paperwork, the DMV employee said that he (or she) was going to scan Griffin’s paperwork into the Revenue Department’s database. Alarmed by this development, Griffin refused and was denied his CCW permit/updated license.
Following the incident, Stoddard County’s prosecuting attorney Russ Oliver filed a lawsuit on Griffin’s behalf, arguing that the request to scan in personal information into a government database violates the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens.
“These folks have followed the letter of the law and been approved for concealed carry by the proper authorities,” Oliver said after filing the lawsuit. “They must not be required to share that information with any third parties or the federal government.”
News of this potential breach in privacy spread quickly. On March 4, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder issued a press release saying that he supports Oliver and that the matter warranted an investigation.
“I fully support Mr. Oliver in this important legal action in Stoddard County Circuit Court,” Kinder said in the statement. “This case has issues of statewide importance implicating serious privacy concerns for law-abiding citizens. These folks have followed the letter of the law and been approved for concealed carry by the proper authorities.
In mid-march, the House Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability held a hearing in which Missouri Department of Revenue Director Brian Long was called to testify and to answer questions on what was being done with this sensitive information.
Long denied that the information was being shared with the federal government and explained that the Revenue Department had started scanning the documents into its computer system as part of a concerted effort to combat fraud.
“I was repeatedly and independently assured that these scanned source documents, as part of the license process, are not, nor is there any plans, to share them, again, with the federal government or any third-party vendor,” he said at the hearing.
However, some lawmakers remained unconvinced by his testimony and questioned the overall utility of a state database.
“I’ve got concerns just taking what the department testified to on face value,” State Rep. Todd Richardson told the Associated Press.
“The collecting of these source documents and storing them in a state database, whether that information’s being shared with anyone or not, I’ve got deep concerns about the state collecting and holding that much data,” Richardson added.
So, fast forward to today, the state Senate is following up on the matter and – as mentioned – subpoenaing documents to find out what the heck is going on over at the Revenue Department, i.e. Is the RD sharing data with the federal government? Or are those concerns and allegations overblown?
Like the House, it appears that they are not impressed with the answers they’ve been given thus far.
“This is one of the most appalling abuses of privacy rights I have encountered in state government. I cannot and will not allow unelected bureaucrats to erode the rights of Missourians,” said state Sen. Kurt Shaefer, as reported by The Gateway Pundit.
Although, if a federal universal background check bill gets signed into law this year, one that requires a national registry of law-abiding gun owners, this Missouri inquiry may be a waste of time as all states would be required to share/report gun owner information to the federal government, something to keep in mind as the debate on Capitol Hill heats up.