RENO -- Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley's refusal to discuss the flawed handling of Gov. Jim Gibbons' concealed weapons permit is focusing attention on a state confidentiality law that is interpreted differently from county to county.
Last week, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Gibbons temporarily surrendered his permit over the winter after it was found he hadn't completed the legally required training for each of his nine handguns.
Gibbons, a Republican, later completed the training and was issued a proper permit.
Haley has declined to comment on the status of Gibbons' permit and has interpreted the confidentiality law so broadly that he also won't discuss whether his office took action against the firearms instructor who improperly signed off on Gibbons' weapons proficiency test in order for him to obtain the permit.
Under Nevada law, "an application for a permit and all information contained within that application" is confidential.
In a story that ran on its Web site Sunday, the Gazette-Journal reported that Haley and some other Nevada sheriffs interpret that to mean the public doesn't have the right to know whether an individual has a concealed weapon permit.
Sheriffs in Clark, Humboldt and Pershing counties also will not disclose whether an individual has a permit. But sheriffs in Elko, Douglas, White Pine and Lincoln counties will make such disclosures.
Others, including the sheriffs in Carson City and Storey County, said they have never encountered the issue before.
"I follow whatever state law says," Elko Sheriff Dale Lotspeich told the Gazette-Journal. "With the exception of personal information, that is public information."
Twenty-eight states have laws making permit information confidential, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Gibbons' ability to obtain a permit without following the legal requirements is a perfect example why the public should have access to permit information, said Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association.
"How else do you hold people accountable to know whether the procedures are being followed or not?" he asked.
Information about who holds a permit is not closed by the confidentiality clause in state law, Smith added.
"To me, it is clearly an open record," he said.