I had a recent phone call from an interested student. He called and told me that he had been considering getting his permit for many years. All of his friends and family had permits. He had, thus far, decided not to get a permit due to his concerns about being part of any sort of database of firearm owners or permit holders. We spoke at length for almost 30 minutes and I thought the topic deserved a detailed overview here on our site both for students who have already come through the class and for those who may share this same concern.
Lets start with the facts.
Fact: Currently there is no firearm purchase database pursuant to state and federal law. When a state background check is run, either at point of sale of a firearm or in the processing of a concealed handgun permit, the paperwork is destroyed and no permanent record is kept in any form.
Fact: The state of Colorado does not keep a state wide concealed handgun permit database pursuant to state law.
Fact: Sheriff’s maintain their own permit (CHP) databases for their use only, which is not available to the public.
Fact: These county level permit databases could be made available to other government agencies or law enforcement departments based on a formal need and legal request.
Fact: As part of the process to apply for the permit a federal background check is also run. This is submitted by the state to the FBI and checked against the federal fingerprint database.
So, lets outline the potential concerns.
The most obvious and common concern is that the law could change. It would take only some new and successful legislation for Colorado to begin to keep a state wide permit database for example. It would take only some federal legislation to create a new database of permit holders or gun owners.
A common concern is that one’s neighbors or coworkers could find out that they own a gun or a permit. In Colorado that currently can’t happen. As the information is not available to the public it is retained privately by the county. Horror stories from other states still seem to keep this concern top of mind for many.
Most of the other concerns I hear are also not generally founded upon a correct understanding of the current facts.
Potential responses to these concerns.
I tend to feel that while some states like Connecticut and New York are making headlines about their new strict gun control oriented laws, in general the country is making a lot of positive headway toward being more gun friendly for law abiding citizens. I also feel that while Colorado has recently passed some gun related laws generally viewed to be anti-gun, our western heritage and belief in the 2nd amendment are still very strong. The winds change rapidly and it is hard to predict what may or what may not happen but I do think that time will show that these unwanted changes (even in New York) will eventually have consequences that even that political camp doesn’t want to endure.
I also think that while some of the current hot gun control topics like universal background checks and magazine limitations are generally not popular in the “gun owner” household, there are many gun owners who support these types of measures and try to argue their merit. Changes the laws to create a greater database or registry of gun owners or permit holders would be more strongly opposed by those gun owners who might otherwise justify these other topics.
We have found that even those who strongly support gun control in most forms still believe that a public registry or database of firearm owners or permit holders would be dangerous and unwarranted.
Another potential response to most of these concerns is that if the government truly wanted to create a database of gun owners in order to potentially one day confiscate weapons, most of us who currently own guns or intend on purchasing one some day are likely to be put on that list regardless if we have obtained a permit or not. Very few live a life of gun ownership (inside or outside the law) without eventually getting onto that imaginary/potential “grid.”
Lastly, and perhaps the one I feel most strongly about personally, I feel that one of the greatest tools we have both in our own private security and freedoms is education and training. Getting more people educated both informally and formally not only is better for us as firearm owners in terms of our own safety and preparation, it is also critical to send a political message to the other side of the gun control camp. We want people to know that we do believe in training and education and that we are willing to invest in it even if we don’t feel it should be required to exercise our 2nd amendment rights in part or in full.
This is a complex issue and we all have to make a decision. I think it would be agreed upon by a majority that in our current climate and situation in Colorado, getting a permit is not likely to put you on any “grid” or database that should be concerning or alarming. Where things may go in the future is purely attempted prophesy at this point.