Maryland: Lawsuit Challenges State Police’s Unlawful Processing of Firearm Applications and Risks the Confidentiality of Applicants’ Sensitive Personal Information

Posted on September 18, 2013

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As directed by Governor Martin O’Malley, the Maryland State Police released confidential firearms purchase application information to employees of four other state agencies in a misguided attempt to move forward in clearing the backlog of unprocessed 77R applications.

Today, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of individuals whose applications to purchase regulated firearms remain trapped in the Maryland State Police’s months-long processing backlog.  The Maryland Licensed Firearm Dealers Association, Associated Gun Clubs of Baltimore, Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association, and Maryland Shall Issue, along with a Maryland citizen with pending 77R applications, challenged this new and unlawful practice of using non-police personnel from other state agencies to process pending firearm purchase application data through insufficiently secured computer systems.  This practice poses a serious and imminent risk to the security and confidentiality of citizen applicants’ sensitive personal information, including their names, addresses, driver license numbers, Social Security numbers, and information concerning their mental health and criminal histories.

The State Police’s use of employees from other state agencies, none of whom are subject to the same degree of background investigation as police personnel or subject to the direct oversight and supervision of the State Police, violates state law allowing the State Police only to call upon certain identified police personnel for assistance in processing firearm applications.  In addition, the data security protocols used by the State Police fall far short of those required by the state’s own Department of Information Technology.  For example, the State Police have provided the non-police employees from other state agencies with only a single group username and password, rather than individual credentials necessary to trace specific activity to particular individuals, and are using insufficiently secure computer systems that are exposed to potential third-party access and other risks of data security breach.  Because applicants’ sensitive and confidential personal information contained in pending firearm applications may be compromised by the State Police’s practice, plaintiffs have asked the court to order the State Police to stop these unlawful actions immediately.

It is vital that the State Police work to address the self-inflicted backlog of processing pending firearm purchase applications so that law-abiding citizens of Maryland may obtain regulated firearms for their protection in a timely manner, but the State Police’s new practice unacceptably puts at risk the applicants’ private personal information, in clear violation of state law.  Your NRA-ILA will continue to monitor and report on the status of this lawsuit as the plaintiffs seek to ensure that the citizens of Maryland do not lose their constitutional rights to the privacy of their sensitive personal information simply by exercising their fundamental rights to firearm ownership.

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