Posted by The Associated Press April 28, 2008 11:07AM
Categories: Breaking News

The Mail Tribune in Medford has won a court fight over public access to concealed handgun licenses.

The newspaper had sought the list of concealed handgun permits in Jackson County from Sheriff Mike Winters as part of an investigation into news that a South Medford High School teacher had such a permit and wanted to carry her gun at school.

The paper contended the list was a public record and took the issue to court.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge G. Philip Arnold granted the paper access in a decision last week. Read the decision here.

"We were confident all along that concealed weapon permits are public records," said Mail Tribune Editor Bob Hunter. "They've always been public records."

The newspaper asked about eight months ago for a list of concealed weapons permits issued in 2006 and 2007.

The sheriff, who manages the county's weapon permit program, asserted the documents were exempt from public view because they could compromise security and contained personal information, including names and addresses.

None of the permit holders, however, had challenged the newspaper's right to obtain the information based on privacy issues, and state law favors disclosure of public information, Arnold stated.

He also pointed out that the permit application required applicants to attest to and sign that they understood state law considers the form public information.

About two months after the Mail Tribune requested the information, that statement was removed from Jackson County's concealed weapon permit forms, Sgt. Bob Grantham testified at a February hearing.

It was unclear whether Winters would appeal the ruling or when a list of permit holders might be released to the Mail Tribune.

The newspaper does not intend to publish names on the list but fought the sheriff's refusal to hand over the information to protect people's ability to access public records, Hunter said.

"This was not an attack on Second Amendment rights; this was about public records and public officials following state law and not their personal preferences," Hunter said.

Because of a weekend emergency, Winters had not had time to read the decision and declined to comment until he had.