I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Concealed weapons permit info is confidential in NM
It’s unclear whether Robert Reza, the shooter in last week’s rampage that left two dead in Albuquerque, was one of the more than 17,000 individuals in New Mexico permitted to carry a concealed weapon.
And you likely won’t ever know.
Information about who can legally carry a concealed weapon in the state, including names, is confidential under state law (29-19-6, Subsection B).
It’s a fact that surprised Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, this week. A gun-rights advocate, Munoz pushed for a state law passed during this year ‘s legislative session that allows individuals with concealed-carry permits to take weapons into restaurants with beer-and-wine licenses.
“I would support opening up names,” Munoz told The Independent on Monday. “I wouldn’t support towns or addresses. I mean there may be 10 George Munoz’s in the state of New Mexico. It’d be then up to you to find them. But I don’t see anything wrong with giving out names.”
Reza went on a killing spree July 12 at Albuquerque’s Emcore Corporation that left two women dead and four others injured before he turned a semi-automatic 45-caliber handgun on himself.
Whether or not Reza had a concealed-carry license has not come up as an issue in the aftermath of last week’s shooting. It’s still unclear how Reza came to possess the gun. It’s also unclear whether Reza had applied for or received a concealed-carry license.
New Mexico is an open-carry state, meaning it doesn’t require a permit for a person purchasing a gun he intends to carry in the open.
The day after the rampage The Independent was told by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s Special Investigations Division, which maintains the list of concealed-carry licenses issued by the state, that all information, including the names of individuals permitted to carry concealed weapons, is confidential.
While the public can’t know the names of people carrying concealed weapons, it can know how many people have received the right to carry concealed weapons. There are 17,298 valid licenses in New Mexico currently. Of that number, 2,552 of them were issued this year, according to the New Mexico Department of Public Safety’s Special Investigations Division.
Nevada, Colorado, California release concealed carry info; other states keep it private
While New Mexico’s decision to make information on concealed-carry applications confidential appears in line with many surrounding states, it is by no means universal.
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that names of people who have concealed-carry permits are public, saying that the Washoe County (Reno) sheriff couldn’t withhold the name of a permittee or “and any post-permit records of investigation, suspension, or revocation.” In the ruling Nevada’s top court said that some information contained in the records made public by its ruling could be redacted.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, there is no prohibition against making public certain information related to concealed-carry permits.
“Some sheriffs have decided to put the information out and others have not,” said Chet Ubowski of Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “The application says there is potential for the application to become public.”
And in California it appears the disclosure of such information is up to local law enforcement agencies that issue the permits. The application form used by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office has this line, which must be signed by the applicant:
I understand that I am obligated to be complete and truthful in providing information on this application. I understand that all of the information disclosed by me in this application may be subject to public disclosure.
Most surrounding states, like Arizona and Texas, however, treat the identity and personal information submitted on an concealed-carry permit or license application as confidential, a review by The Independent has found. In many cases an exemption is made for law enforcement agencies conducting investigations.
Meanwhile Indiana, which once considered such information public, made it confidential this year with a law that took effect July 1, said Lt. Jerry Berkey of the Indiana State Police.
The move followed the publication last year of the state’s database of gun permit holders by two of that state’s newspapers.
Should New Mexico release names?
Some wonder if New Mexico has gone too far in making even names of those holding concealed-carry licenses confidential.
“Obviously it’s a very emotional issue and it’s caused a lot of intense debate,” Sarah Welsh of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government said. “Typically holders of permits don’t want their names published. There are concerns about stalking victims who worry about their abusers finding out where they live if their names are published with counties.”
But “someone needs to be able to check up on the list,” she said of the state’s decision to make all information related to concealed-carry permits confidential.
At least two Western states – California and Nevada – the Supreme Courts in each state have ruled that the privacy issue is not compelling enough reason to withhold the names, Welsh said.
New Mexico and the process for receiving a concealed-carry license
People applying for a New Mexico concealed-carry license must jump through several hoops, including a background check, before they earn the right, according to state law.
An application requires an applicant to list his or her current address, date of birth, place of birth, social security number, height, weight, gender, hair color, eye color and driver’s license number or other state-issued identification number, according to state law.
The applicant also must submit two full sets of fingerprints, a certified copy of a certificate of completion for a department-approved firearms training course, a birth certificate or proof of United States citizenship and proof that they reside in New Mexico.
The state then must make a “reasonable effort to determine if an applicant is qualified to receive a concealed handgun license,” including an appropriate check of available records, the law says. New Mexico also must “forward the applicant’s fingerprints to the federal bureau of investigation for a national criminal background check,” according to the statute.