8th District candidates against sharing of permit info

Monday, April 15, 2013
Steve Hodges
Jason Smith

Candidates running for Missouri's 8th Congressional District were split as state lawmakers on 2009 legislation that rejected compliance with federal law that set mandates on issuance of driver's licenses, but their disagreement seems to come down to different interpretations of the law.

Jason Smith, the Republican candidate and Missouri's House speaker pro tem, was a co-sponsor of House Bill 361, which allows the state to opt out of complying with the federal 2005 REAL ID Act.

An ongoing debate in Missouri has brought the bill to the forefront for some Republican lawmakers, who say state government employees in the revenue department and Missouri State Highway Patrol may have violated House Bill 361 when they gathered and shared a list of the state's concealed-carry weapon permit holders with the federal government. Some have gone as far as to accuse the state of attempting with the federal government to build a registry of gun-permit holders.

Smith said the purpose of the 2009 bill was to prevent situations in which the state would share information with the federal government and risk violating the privacy of Missouri citizens.

"The reason I pushed for it is because people believed this might happen one day," Smith said.

Last week, Missouri's Speaker of the House, Tim Jones, and other state lawmakers asked Attorney General Chris Koster to form an investigative committee to look further into the admissions information was collected and shared by state employees.

State Rep. Steve Hodges, the Democratic candidate in the Congressional race, said he voted against final passage of House Bill 361 because he believes the federal law was passed primarily to help catch illegal immigrants. The federal law does contain provisions for illegal immigrants and potential terrorists.

"I've always been against a national registry [of gun-permit holders]," Hodges said. "The real purpose of that was to prevent illegal immigration. When illegal immigrants come in, they sometimes take away jobs, jobs from hardworking people in my local district. They always hit agriculture hard, and that's wrong. We need to work to prevent that. Agriculture, of course, is the leading industry in Missouri, and the leading in Southeast Missouri."

The federal REAL ID Act, according to the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees compliance, was enacted by Congress with the intention of deterring terrorists by setting standards, procedures and requirements for states to issue driver's licenses and other forms of identification to be accepted by the federal government for official purposes, such as boarding a federally regulated airplane, building or nuclear facility. The law requires states to use certain security measures, such as asking applicants to present additional documents verifying their identification, before issuing and printing identification cards. Many states, some of which have cited citizens' right to privacy as a concern, have passed laws that prevent state agencies from complying with provisions of the federal law.

Smith calls the actions of state employees, who have admitted to sharing concealed-carry permit holders' information with the federal government, a "flat out, blatant violation of the law passed in 2009."

"It's unacceptable, and people are going to have to be held accountable for what they are doing," Smith said.

Hodges also said he believes the information sharing is wrong.

During a campaign event Wednesday, Hodges told a group in Chaffee, Mo., that he did not believe the information sharing by the highway patrol had taken place, because he was told it hadn't, but said now he knows different. He said then if it was happening, it was wrong.

"Evidently it did happen," Hodges said. "I am against that. I am against sharing that information. I think it is a violation of people's rights, and I don't think it should be done."

Neither candidate last week voted on proposed legislation that would prevent the revenue department from making electronic copies of concealed-carry permit documents and would require the destruction of documents already collected. State Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, is the bill's lead sponsor. Smith is a co-sponsor. Both Smith and Hodges said they were traveling in the 8th District the day of the vote.

Both candidates' platforms include that they hold a "pro-gun" stance.

"If it comes to a voting record, I can't think of one vote that I haven't been in line with protecting people's Second Amendment rights, or protecting their privacy," Smith said.

Smith said he has sponsored or co-sponsored most, if not all, pro-gun legislation that has been proposed or passed in the House since he was elected in 2005.

Hodges pointed out several occasions on which he has supported pro-gun legislation, including sponsorship of a bill that allows prosecutors, assistant prosecutors, circuit attorneys and assistant circuit attorneys with concealed-carry permits to bring guns into courthouses.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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