Some issues are phony. The Oregon Legislature's eagerness to seal concealed weapons permits is contrived. As The Oregonian noted last Friday, in the 20 years that concealed handgun permits have been public records, "there's been no documented case, nothing, demonstrating that including concealed handgun information in the state's public records law has caused any real harm to the holders of those licenses."

The drive to remove concealed handgun records is part of a much larger piece. It is a giant step away from Oregon's tradition of doing the public's business in public.

Having a concealed handgun is a bargain with all Oregonians. Sheriffs grant these permits with an understanding that the holder is of sound mind and has no criminal record. It is not that different from a host of other permits and public transactions that are done in the name of the public. Implicit in this bargain is that the public knows what's going on. If the records of these transactions become private, it will become the secret business of county sheriffs.

The essence of private government is a belief that the public should be cut out of the bargain. We do that by making certain documents off-limits to pubic viewing. That is, the people who pay for government are no longer allowed to see the basic documents of government.

Wrote The Oregonian: "This state once had one of the best and broadest open-records laws in the country. But lawmakers have steadily chipped away at the law."

The drive to seal concealed handgun weapons permits is a giant step in the direction of private government, from which the public is excluded. If the Legislature takes this step, don't be surprised when other, basic documents are removed from public view.

Sen. Betsy Johnson knows this is the wrong way to go. So do representatives Brad Witt and Deborah Boone. It's time for them to speak up, on behalf of the citizens who pay for government and deserve to know how government works.