The Circuit Court Clerks in charge of releasing the information of concealed weapon permit holders in at least 12 16 Virginia jurisdictions have decided they will not fulfill a request of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV).
Last Friday, we broke the news that the RPV had requested the personal information of hundreds of thousands of permit holders to communicate their political message to them leading up to the fall elections. The RPV was legally allowed to ask for the material, but in less than a month the release of that information will become illegal.
The new law to seal the records of permit holders was passed in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session and was sponsored and championed by the Republican nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Mark Obenshain.
Joseph Waymack, who brought the issue to our attention, said he will not proceed with the lawsuit he had planned because the Clerk in Prince George, where he lives, is among the 12 clerks who have initially declined to release the information.
"Due to the fact that Prince George's Clerk is not complying with the request, a lawsuit is no longer necessary," Waymack said in a statement e-mailed to our Jessica Jaglois. "I had it ready to go this morning but am happy to have won without even filing it."
Waymack also shared the letter Robert Francis, the Clerk in Southhampton County sent to Anthony Reedy, the RPV exectuive director, declining his request. Francis lists three reasons why he planned to decline the request including the upcoming law.
"I would decline based upon my personal belief that it would be improper to disseminate such personal information, especially in light of the passage of Senate Bill 1335 (which takes effect on July 1, 2013), and which statute does not make a distinction as to when applications were filed, thereby expressing the intent of the Legislature that this information remain private," He wrote.
Francis goes on to say that regardless of the passage of the new law, it is not his responsibility to provide anyone such detailed information.
"I am personally committed to the access established by the Freedom of Information Act, as being essential to a democracy," writes Francis. "Being a child of the Watergate era, I will respect and respond to any appropriate request … but not one intended to merely create a mailing database."
Francis does offer Reedy the opportunity to review the records in person at his office.
According to Waymack the following Clerks have told him they will not fulfill the RPV request:
Barrett Chappell- Dinwiddie
Terry Whittle- Winchester
Tammy Ward- Hopewell
Stacy Stafford- Colonial Heights
Judy Worthington- Chesterfield
Rick Francis- Southampton
Nicole Briggs- Waynesboro
Randy Carter- Suffolk
Lynn Dunlevy- Middlesex
Sharon Jones- Isle of Wight
Cathy Hogan- Bedford
Bishop Knott- Prince George
Tina Sinnen- Virginia Beach
Bubbie Fraley- Giles County
Bruce Patterson- Rockbridge County
Jennifer Sims- Warren County
We will continue to keep you updated as other Clerks respond to the request.