Court hears arguments on governor’s gun permits
Associated Press Writer
RENO ” A lawyer for a Reno newspaper urged the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday to open some records concerning Gov. Jim Gibbons’ concealed weapons permit, arguing confidentiality provisions extend only to information on an application, and not documents or actions after a permit is issued.
“The statute is not a blanket rule of confidentiality for any and all records that relate to a concealed firearm permit,” Scott Glogovac, attorney for the Reno newspaper, argued before the court in Carson City.
Washoe County Deputy District Attorney Nathan Edwards countered that the Legislature intended to keep documents private when it enacted confidentiality clauses for concealed weapons in 1997.
Justices took the arguments under advisement.
The newspaper last year sued Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley when he refused to discuss the status of Gibbons’ firearms permit.
The newspaper sought information on Gibbons’ permit after the governor acknowledged surrendering it when it was revealed he hadn’t completed the required training for nine hand guns he owns.
Haley ultimately revoked the certification of the firearms instructor who signed off on the training. Gibbons has said he has since completed the required training and holds a valid permit for all his weapons.
Washoe District Judge Janet Berry in May 2008 rejected the newspaper’s lawsuit, ruling the legislative intent was to protect the identity of concealed weapon permit holders.
“The court can’t treat the governor any differently,” she said.
Glogovac, who conceded applications and investigations by law enforcement of applicants are confidential, on Tuesday argued that Berry overstepped the law’s parameters.
“Nothing in this statute mentions confidentiality for the permits themselves. … Or documents that would discuss or address the status of the permit or any kind of action taken in respect to a permit,” he said.
State public records laws require a narrow confidentiality interpretation that would allow for disclosure of the documents, he said.
Edwards countered that revealing any information contained on an application, including a person’s name, would violate the confidentiality mandate.
Several justices noted that state law distinguishes between an applicant and a permit holder and questioned whether that reflects a legislative intent to treat the paperwork differently.
“Does the sheriff concede that post application data, post permit data, is not covered by this statute?” asked Chief Justice Jim Hardesty.
“No,” Edwards replied, adding that anything about a permit after it is issued would be entwined with confidential information on an application.
Hardesty then suggested a district court could release information after redacting anything considered confidential, such as personal information.
Justice Michael Douglas noted Edwards used the term “within” the application in his arguments.
“Doesn’t that have a limiting proviso?” he asked.
“Once you grant the permit, you now have a separate document, a separate issue,” Douglas said.
Justice Kris Pickering proposed a scenario involving someone who has a gun permit revoked because of a criminal conviction.
“Is that revocation of the permit in your estimation protected? Do you carry that statute that far?” she asked.
Edwards said Pickering’s example went beyond his arguments but added, “you’d still have to tussle” with the statute’s language on confidentiality.