Last Wednesday Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill that imposes a $10,000 fine and up to six months in jail for anyone who publishes “any information contained in an application for a concealed handgun permit or any information regarding the identity of any person who applied for or received a concealed handgun permit.”
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jeff Thompson, cited The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News’ publication of a map identifying holders of gun permits late last year as impetus for the measure, and said the law represented “a great day in Louisiana and across this nation for those of us who refuse to give an inch when it comes to defending our right to protect our families and we will stand strong in the defense of the Second Amendment.”
But this particular law has a serious First Amendment dimension as well. While the law makes allowances for, among other things, information released under court order or that a permit holder has released on her or his own, it doesn’t provide for information that’s leaked to news organizations.
“I see this as a pretty clear case of prior restraint,” Steve Beatty, the editor of the New Orleans nonprofit news organization The Lens, told Poynter in a phone call. “It’s threatening us with criminal penalties if we publish information we come into possession of.”