- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Maryland judge on Thursday denied a temporary restraining order that would have prevented Maryland State Police from using outside agency employees to process a backlog of gun applications.

But Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Lee Davis-Loomis set a Sept. 27 hearing for a preliminary injunction on the complaint — which was brought by gun clubs and advocates who said the practice compromised gun owners’ personal information.

The backlog of pending purchase applications now numbers about 10,000 — down from 39,000 outstanding applications earlier this month, according to documents filed in court by the attorney general’s office.

Police recruited about 200 employees from five state agencies to help process the backlog of applications but have discontinued that practice, opting instead to have 24 employees of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services help police complete the remainder of the work, according to court documents. They also have changed protocol for how the data is entered and secured — a “big win” for the advocates who filed the complaint.

“This is a big win for us. They failed to take care with our data. We called them on it and they relented,” said Patrick Shomo, president of Maryland Shall Issue, one of four groups that filed the civil complaint.

The complaint says state police compromised gun purchasers’ personal information — including Social Security and driver’s license numbers, addresses and information about their mental health or criminal histories — by hosting the database on an unsecure computer network.

The attorney general’s office reasoned that, because the protocol that was the subject of the original complaint has been changed and increased security measures were put in place, the entire complaint should be tossed.

“Individuals who had previously been enlisted to assist in the data entry effort no longer had access to the [Maryland State Police] data entry system at issue, the user names and passwords that had been supplied for the effort were canceled, and the website address through which the data entry had previously been performed was moved from the public domain and changed,” the attorney general’s office wrote in a response to the original complaint.

Police brought in the additional workers to process a flood of applications state police received ahead of Oct. 1, the date stricter background checks for gun purchases take effect in Maryland.

Mr. Shomo notes that the new security protocols highlighted by the attorney general — including the move of the data-entry system to an internal and encrypted police network — show progress but reveal how vulnerable personal information was under the old system.

“I promise we won’t stop until they notify the people whose data was exposed on the Internet that they need to take precautions,” he said.

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