Names on Prince George's County's new gun offender registry won't be hidden from the public, as information kept on the registry falls under Maryland's Public Information Act, according to the Attorney General's Office.
County officials have no plans to set up a database of gun offenders similar to the state's sex offender registry -- which the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services makes available online -- but the county police will have to disclose names, descriptions of the crimes committed and other information about the registrants when public records requests are made.
No information kept in the registry, such as the date of conviction, names and aliases, and the offender's home and work addresses, is subject to an exemption under Maryland's public records law, wrote Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Rowe in a letter.
"The gun offender registry is a public document in that the information therein is received by the Chief of Police in connection with the transaction of public business," she wrote.
The registry could be in effect by the end of July, allowing police to monitor any county resident convicted of a gun-related crime.
Some council members, as well as officials with the Prince George's County Police Department, had said they planned to keep the records private.
When the bill passed the county council, Chairwoman Andrea Harrison, D-Bladensburg, said she was concerned about the way first-time offenders would be treated if it became public knowledge that their name was on the list.
Police officials said they intend to share information about the registrants with other law enforcement offices.
Other council members were adamant that state law required the records be disclosed, allowing concerned residents to see if their neighbors are on the registry.
"Arrest records are public information," said Councilwoman Mary Lehman, D-Laurel, who requested the attorney general's opinion. "If you think when you create something like this and think you can sequester the information and keep it private, you're mistaken."
That doesn't mean county officials will make the registry immediately available online, Lehman said, but police will be required by law to make the information available by Maryland Public Information Act requests.
The county could eventually create an online database, Lehman said, but before they do, officials want to wait and see how effective the registry is at quelling gun-related crimes.
The county council passed a resolution Tuesday outlining the rules and procedures that police must follow while maintaining the registry.