Every state has passed laws, often called open records statutes or freedom of information acts, that provide for disclosure of certain information possessed by government agencies. But how does a state legislature decide which information should be subject to disclosure? Is there a discernable pattern in the types of records available to the public? Using concealed carry licenses as the main example, this Comment explains the inconsistencies that often characterize states’ treatment of different records and attempts to bring clarity by offering a new framework for determining which types of personally identifiable information should be available to the public.
The proposed framework focuses on (1) the substantial value of the information to others in structuring their social and economic interactions, and (2) the underlying purpose of the practice implicated by the record. Taken together, these prongs address the needs of the public in a systematic manner, while explaining the current state treatment of common records, such as arrest, property tax, medical, and personnel records. Applied to the gun license context, this understanding of government records suggests that such licenses should be available to the public.