by Max Brantley
The bill to close the records of concealed weapon permit holders in Arkansas? It hit a speed bump in Senate committee today.
Rep. Randy Stewart hoped for an up or down vote on his bill. But the press has been lobbying hard on the issue. Gov. Mike Beebe's expression of a desire to keep the record open apparently had some impact.
The committee members voted unanimously today to urge a compromise on the legislation. Under this compromise, floated by newspaper representatives, the list would remain open, but specific addresses of permit holders would be redacted when released to the public.
It's unclear if a compromise can be struck with those seeking secrecy. But time could be on the side of a compromise. The bill can't clear the Senate committee in its current form and the session is in its final days. UPDATE: Sponsor Stewart tells Stephens Media he's amenable to compromise.
UPDATE II: I heard talk in a radio report of allowing inspection of the record but not publication. Information is not public if it cannot be disseminated. And government prohibition on publication sounds like prior restraint to me.
As readers know, the issue ignited after the Arkansas Times published the State Police public record on line, emulating a similar action by the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and, much earlier, by the Roanoke, Va. newspaper. Reaction of gun groups in those states was similarly irate.
MORE GUN NEWS: Rep. Mark Martin's bill to allow gun owners to openly carry their weapons without a permit failed in committee today on a voice vote.