Missouri AG: FBI audit of concealed carry permits will violate state law, Second Amendment rights
"I will use the full power of my office to stop the FBI … from illegally prying around in the personal information of Missouri gun owners," said Eric Schmitt.
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A planned FBI audit of records of concealed carry weapons permits held by local sheriffs' offices in Missouri will violate state law and the U.S. Constitution, warns state Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
"The FBI has absolutely no business poking around in the private information of those who have obtained a concealed carry permit in Missouri," Schmitt told Just the News. "The Second Amendment rights of Missourians will absolutely not be infringed on my watch."
Schmitt added, "I will use the full power of my office to stop the FBI, which has become relentlessly politicized and has virtually no credibility, from illegally prying around in the personal information of Missouri gun owners."
Schmitt's comments came after he wrote a letter, obtained by Just the News, to FBI Director Christopher Wray earlier this month decrying what he described as an illegal effort by the federal government targeting law-abiding gun owners.
"It has come to my attention that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has informed several Missouri county sheriffs that they will be showing up in August to 'audit' CCW permit holder records," wrote Schmitt, who's running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri this year.
The FBI audit is set to be carried out in 24 counties, according to reports.
"The FBI states, 'The audit includes an onsite review of your Concealed Carry Weapons Permits,'" said Schmitt. "Let me be perfectly clear. 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."
Missouri law states that information "retained in the concealed carry permit system under this subsection shall not be distributed to any federal, state, or private entities."
State lawmakers crafted this language to ensure only elected county sheriffs would have access to the CCW list, according to Schmitt, who added he "will not stand for" the FBI apparently targeting Missouri gun owners by seeking to find out who in the state holds a legal CCW permit.
"We believe in the Second Amendment here," wrote Schmitt. "So does the Supreme Court, as you may have seen in the recent landmark opinion."
Schmitt was referring to the Supreme Court last month striking down a New York law that placed restrictions on carrying a concealed gun outside the home.
He concluded his letter by pledging to fight the FBI "tooth and nail with all the resources that the people of Missouri have given me as their attorney general."
Just the News reached out to the FBI, which explained the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division holds the largest collection of criminal justice information shared by the nation's law enforcement communities and routinely conducts audits to ensure compliance of all participating agencies.
"As part of the planned Missouri audit, a small sampling of system transactions is to be inspected for compliance and to ensure there is no misuse of CJIS systems," said an FBI spokesperson. "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. Missouri has been through this routine audit multiple times, most recently in 2018."
However, at least some Missouri sheriffs' offices appear to be contradicting the FBI's statement to Just the News.
Major Erik Holland of the Platte County Sheriff's Department, for example, told The Landmark, a local newspaper, that his department received an email from the FBI earlier this month saying it was chosen for the audit.
The department then contacted the attorney general's office "seeking guidance on complying with CCW and the confidentiality of these records," said Holland, the department's undersheriff and general counsel.
"Audits are not uncommon," he continued. "But this is the first time we've had the federal government look to audit these particular records."
The Landmark obtained a copy of the Platte County Sheriff's Department's response to the FBI letter announcing the audit.
"Some of the information in your email leads us to believe that portions of the audit may seek information or the review of records which would be in violation of Missouri law," the letter stated. "While our office has no problem providing information related to ensuring our compliance with applicable CJIS security regulations, we cannot violate the laws of the State of Missouri in the process."
In Scotland County, meanwhile, Sheriff Bryan Whitney wrote a letter to the citizens of his county saying his office, the Missouri Sheriff's Association, and the Missouri State Attorney General's office all received information indicating the FBI intends to conduct onsite audits of local sheriff's department CCW records in August.
"As the sheriff of Scotland County, I want all my citizens to know that I will not allow, cooperate or release any CCW information to the FBI, 'even at the threat of a federal arrest,'" wrote Whitney, according to multiple outlets that reviewed his letter. "Point Blank, 'I will go down with the ship if need be.'"
Whitney also told Fox News Digital that he doesn't believe the FBI's claim that its audit is routine and won't target CCW records "to be accurate," adding the people of Missouri have lost trust in the FBI.
Schmitt similarly said in his letter that Missourians' trust in the FBI is at an "all-time low," writing that the public has seen "story after story of incompetence and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI."
Whitney also noted that a data breach last month of the California Justice Department exposing the personal information of thousands of gun owners who applied for a concealed carry permit over the last decade is "one of the exact reasons" he is resisting the FBI audit, should it happen in his county.
The National Rifle Association pledged to take legal action "in light of the recent leak to ensure accountability whether the actions by DOJ were the result of malice or extreme negligence."
Beyond Scotland County, several Missouri county sheriffs have said they have yet to receive any notice from the FBI but are worried about the bureau potentially requesting concealed carry permit holder records, saying they'll refuse to hand them over if asked.
"We have no intention of releasing concealed carry weapon permits to anyone or, for that matter, we don't even know anybody that's wanting that information," Capt. Brian Leer of the Boone County Sheriff's Office told a local ABC affiliate.
Howard, Gasconade, Camden, Macon, Osage, and Randolph are some of the sheriffs' departments saying they wouldn't comply.
Sherriff Scott Eiler of the Gasconade County Sheriff's Office posted on Facebook that his department "will NOT be sharing any CCW information with the federal government!"
Other county sheriffs expressed similar sentiments on social media.