GOP lawmakers turn up the heat on state agencies over sharing gun-owner information

By Wes Duplantier

JEFFERSON CITY — With pressure building in the state Capitol on officials accused of illegally sharing information on Missouri gun owners, the state House of Representatives gave its approval Thursday to a measure that clamps down on the government’s ability to retain that information.

In a broadly bipartisan vote, the House backed legislation that forces the state Department of Revenue to destroy copies of any “source documents” that people have to provide when they apply for an endorsement to carry concealed weapons on their state-issued identification cards. Such documents can include things like gun owners’ birth certificates.

And the measure explicitly bans any state employee from sharing information about gun owners with the federal government.

The bill has sped through the Legislature in the wake of a controversy in which the state Department of Revenue and the Missouri State Highway Patrol have been accused of gathering information about Missourians with concealed carry permits and then sharing those records with the federal government.

Officials from the Department of Revenue initially denied that the records existed. But the head of the state highway patrol, Col. Ron Replogle, confirmed Thursday that his agency had on two occasions sent the entire list of 163,000 Missouri permit holders to an investigator with the federal Social Security Administration.

Before Thursday’s vote, House members expressed outrage at the departments’ actions.

“What was done by the Department of Public Safety was a crime,” said Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, before the House vote.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has spent the week grilling officials from the Department of Revenue and the Highway Patrol.

“The concept of the ability to, basically gather intelligence through profiling is a different issue than an individual law enforcement investigation,” said Schaefer, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Schaefer indicated that he might delay passage of the Department of Revenue’s budget until Senate questions about the controversy have been fully answered.

“Based on not only what we know happened but how it was handled afterward, and obfuscated when we tried to find out the truth, there is serious question about the ability of certain persons to carry out their jobs in a reliable and reasonable way, and that’s something that also that we’re looking at,” he said.

Senate leaders have said they would also be willing to delay work on the budget, even if it means going into a legislative special session over the summer.

After Thursday’s measure had passed the House, Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, called on Attorney General Chris Koster to open an investigation into the Department of Revenue’s actions. He said a House committee on government accountability also would put the agency under scrutiny.