Gun permit issues pop up in North Carolina…

The battle over gun permit data in New York spreads to another state:

A Gaston County commissioner wants to put personal information contained in gun permits – now part of the public record – out of public view.

At Thursday night’s board of commissioners’ work session, vice chairman Tracy Philbeck introduced a measure asking the county’s legislators to change the current law.

Sheriffs’ offices in North Carolina are required to maintain records of handgun purchases issued by their offices, and those records include information such as names, addresses and ages. The public has access to this information, and Philbeck wants that stopped.

“In light of recent events, the media has taken advantage of the public records law and abused it,” he said, referring to news reports that followed incidents such as last month’s shooting at a Connecticut school. “This information should not be used to criminalize or defame gun owners.”

As an example of abuse he mentioned Raleigh-based WRAL-TV’s story last summer about concealed-carry permit holders. He said the story included an online database of public information that allowed people to search street names in the station’s 22-county viewing area for permit holders.

Philbeck believes that people who go through the application process and legally obtain a gun “should expect some form of privacy.”

He wants county commissioners to support legislation that would exempt handgun purchase permits and concealed-carry permits from sheriffs’ office lists accessible by the public at large.

Philbeck said Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger “is in full support of this action.”

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Virginia Moves Closer to Secret Handgun Permits

Two bills that would make it easier to obtain concealed handguns permits and keep the information secret has won easy passage in the House of Delegates.

A bill that would shield records of concealed weapons permit holders from public inspection passed 81-17 Wednesday.

In March 2007, many of the names on the list were made public by the Roanoke Times. The newspaper created a searchable online database of concealed carry permit holders in honor of Sunshine Week, a national initiative to raise awareness about open government and freedom of information.

Information was provided by the Virginia State Police, after the Roanoke Times filed a Freedom of Information request. The paper later removed the database and requested that the police verify the data.

“When we posted the information, we had every reason to believe that the data the State Police had supplied would comply with the statutes. But people have notified us that the list includes names that should not have been released,” said Debbie Meade, president and publisher of The Roanoke Times, in a March 2007 statement. “Out of a sense of caution and concern for the public we have decided to take the database off of our website.”

Editors at the Roanoke Times did not respond to requests for comment from Virginia Statehouse News on Tuesday.

Delegate Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, said exposing the names of gun owners could make those houses vulnerable to robbery by people who want to steal guns.

Delegate Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, who voted against the measure Tuesday, said he doubts any criminal would knowingly break into the home of a gun-carrying Virginian.

Another opponent, Delegate Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said the information should be accessible to the public, so people know when they are encountering a concealed weapon holder. She said the issue is a basic matter of public safety.

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