Editorial: Law of the land

Posted on Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law several bills from the past General Assembly earlier this week. A few of them piqued our interest.

Voter ID

McDonnell signed a bill requiring voters to submit photo identification at the polls, beginning 2014, pending a review by the Department of Justice due to Virginia’s history of disenfranchisement.

While the governor also signed an executive order that provides for an outreach campaign to inform voters of the change and also said that the IDs will be made available to voters lacking identification for free, this law still strikes as a solution in search of a problem.

Critics of the new law say it will discriminate against elderly, low-income or minority voters. This may be so. Hopefully, would-be voters lacking identification will have the motivation to comply with the new requirement. It will be interesting to watch whether McDonnell or a future administration keeps the promise that photo IDs will be free to those who need them. The state’s department of planning and budget estimates that the measure will cost taxpayers $800,000.

Concealing concealed permits

The governor signed a law barring local courts from disclosing the names and addresses of those who have concealed carry permits for firearms. While we respect all citizens’ right to privacy and citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms, we automatically balk at any law that makes public documents otherwise.

Following the Newtown, Conn. shootings, a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of those holding concealed carry permits in a three-county area. The Roanoke Times published a similar list in 2007 following the Virginia Tech shooting.

In both instances, we believe the newspapers were in error. Just because someone owns a permit to conceal a weapon, that does not make them dangerous. In fact, they may be safer. To qualify for a concealed handgun permit in Virginia, applicants first have to complete firearm safety classes. The same requirement does not apply to purchase a gun outright. You merely need money and a clean background check.

Proponents of the law claim it keeps concealed carry permit holders safe by protecting their private information, namely, their addresses. The original bill actually only applied to permit holders under protective orders; it was later amended. Hopefully legislators are aware of the many other ways to track people down through the public record. Online tax records are a good example. Did we shoot a hole in the logic here?

It’s hard to tell the true motivation of this law. It’s obviously a balancing act between a right to safety and the sanctity of public records. We just hope legislators know where to draw the line.

Headlines of the Day