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Missouri AG Eric Schmitt blasts FBI for seeking concealed carry permit information

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 7/15/2022 Kacen Bayless, The Kansas City Star

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt this week blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for planning to conduct audits of local Missouri police agencies’ concealed carry permits next month.

Schmitt, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate in the upcoming August primary, wrote a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday criticizing the agency for overstepping its authority and violating Missouri law. He called on the agency to cease the planned audits.

“This is not going to happen,” Schmitt wrote in the letter. “I will fight you tooth and nail with all of the resources that the people of Missouri have given me as their Attorney General.”

In a news release about the letter, Schmitt’s office painted the planned audits as “Illegal Attempts to Harvest Concealed Carry Permit Information from Missouri Sheriffs.” The release said the office became aware that the FBI was planning to travel to Missouri to audit sheriff departments across the state.

Chris Nuelle, Schmitt’s spokesperson, forwarded The Star an email sent last week by Roger Shaw, an auditor for the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division Audit Unit, to three employees with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. The email said the FBI would be conducting National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) audits in Missouri, starting the week of Aug. 8.

Shaw, in the email, said he would be visiting the Platte County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 10. The agency was “selected as a local Missouri agency reviewed for the access to the NICS,” the email said.

“The audit includes an onsite review of your Concealed Carry Weapons Permits (14) and/or Disposition of Firearm (22) use,” the email said.

Erik Holland, a spokesperson for the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, told The Star his agency has had a good working relationship with the FBI. The agency forwarded the email to Schmitt’s office because it considered the audit to be in conflict with Missouri law.

“We intend to follow Missouri law regarding the confidentiality of concealed carry weapons permit records and the records of firearms ownership,” he said.

“Obviously, any information requested as part of the audit that doesn’t violate Missouri law, or infringe on any rights of citizens such as security protocols, identification of our personnel, things of that nature, will be responded to appropriately.”

In response to Schmitt, the FBI told The Star in a statement that the Missouri audit would inspect a sampling of system transactions to make sure there wasn’t any misuse of the agency’s Criminal Justice Information Services systems. The planned audit is a routine inspection of the systems, the statement said.

“At no point would auditors require access to lists such as state approved concealed carry holders, nor would the CJIS Division retain information beyond what is necessary to address a specific compliance concern,” the statement said. “Missouri has been through this routine audit multiple times, most recently in 2018.”

Schmitt, however, painted the audits as illegal in his letter to Wray.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Schmitt wrote in the letter. “Allowing federal agents from the FBI to have access to records of Missourians who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon violates Missouri law and infringes on our Second Amendment rights.”

Schmitt’s letter quoted Missouri’s 2016 concealed carry permit law, which states in part that “Information retained in the concealed carry permit system under this subsection shall not be distributed to any federal, state, or private entities.”

Prior to 2016, gun owners could only carry a concealed weapon in public by passing a criminal background check and completing a gun safety training class in order to get a permit.

In 2016, Missouri Republican lawmakers overrode a veto by then-Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and approved a law that removed those requirements and allowed people to carry a concealed firearm in public without a permit.

Nixon vetoed the bill because he said it would allow “individuals to legally carry a concealed firearm even though they have been or would be denied a permit because their background check revealed criminal offenses or caused the sheriff to believe they posed a danger.”

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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