In a variation of the classic Abbott and Costello comedy routine - "Who's on first?" - confusion and evasion continue to thwart lawmakers' fact-finding efforts in the driver's license processing controversy.
Legislators have been investigating, since early March, a complaint that the state Department of Revenue, as part of its procedure for issuing driver's licenses, has been recording permits to carry concealed weapons (CCW) and sharing the information with federal authorities.
The sharing is a cause of concern.
When lawmakers in 2003 allowed Missourians to carry concealed weapons, they said information about who received a permit was a closed record, available only to law enforcement.
In 2009, lawmakers also decided that information about driver's licenses and non-driver's licenses would not be shared with federal authorities, despite provisions of a 2005 federal measure called Real ID.
The roster in this "Who's on first?" routine includes the following players.
• Missouri's county sheriffs, who process concealed-carry applications.
• The state Revenue agency, which issues the concealed-carry permits.
• The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), which records concealed-carry permits in its Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES), which can be accessed by local law enforcement personnel.
• The Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC), which Wikipedia describes as a "fusion center" combining resources from the local, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
• The federal Office of Inspector General within the Social Security Administration (SSA). The office investigates fraud.
• The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
On Wednesday, legislators were told by the ATF it had no part in the SSA's efforts to obtain a CCW list from MSHP. Furthermore, ATF blamed an over-zealous MIAC employee with including ATF to bolster SSA's request for the CCW list from MSHP. And, not only did ATF not request or obtain the CCW list, SSA couldn't download the CCW list it received from MSHP.
Missouri lawmakers justifiably are frustrated by this entire episode of bureaucratic obfuscation.
In an attempt to get a straight answer, one state senator invited "whistleblowers" to come forward.
Legitimate privacy concerns are at stake here, and we join with the legislators who are trying to get to the bottom of this fiasco.