State lawyer OKs clerical workers viewing gun buyer information

A state lawyer determined there was nothing illegal about Maryland State Police deploying dozens of state workers from other agencies to help claw through a backlog of more than 35,000 background checks for gun buyers.

In a Monday "letter of advice" to Allegany County Del. Kevin Kelly, who questioned the legality of the move, a lawyer from the Maryland attorney general's office, wrote that no law prevents state workers from doing clerical work for another agency and state police did not violate a law requiring Maryland State Police to review and investigate applications to buy guns.

"There is no basis in law or in fact to believe that the clerical employees of the five participating state agencies are any less trustworthy, law-abiding, or respectful of citizen privacy than the clerical staff employed by MSP," Adam D. Snyder, chief counsel for opinions, advice and legislation, wrote in a five-page letter released Monday.

Earlier this month, the workers — as many as 40 per day from five state agencies — entered gun buyer information in a database that troopers use to do background checks. A surge in gun sales has created months-long delays and, as a result, more than 40 guns have been released to people barred from owning them.

Kelly, a Democrat, other lawmakers and gun-rights groups complained that using workers from outside the state police represented a possible privacy breach. Kelly asked for a legal opinion from Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. Snyder wrote that he was responding on the attorney general's behalf, but that it was not a formal opinion.

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