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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A Constitutional Access Provision Dies in North Carolina…

Sad news from Raleigh…

The House Rules Committee on Wednesday eclipsed an effort to write open government into the N.C. Constitution.

The proposal would have enshrined the right of people to inspect public records and attend public meetings in the N.C. Constitution. Any restrictions to those rights would have to be passed by a supermajority, or three-fifths, of both the House and the Senate.

Charles Broadwell, publisher of the Fayetteville Observer and president of the N.C. Press Association, asked Rules Committee members to support what has been dubbed the “Sunshine Amendment.”

“We do not see this as a press bill,” Broadwell said. “This is about the right of the people and open government.”

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, pleaded with committee members to support the proposal. “If you support open government, vote for the bill,” LaRoque said. “If you don’t support open government, don’t vote for the bill.”

Some committee members, however, questioned whether the proposal ought to be placed in the N.C. Constitution.

“I’m not a big fan of constitutional amendments,” said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange. “It’s just not good public policy to put this in the constitution.”

N.C. Bill Would Open Evaluation Records

A legislative proposal that would grant citizens access to performance evaluations and other details about government employees in North Carolina has pitted the public’s right to know against worker privacy.

At an open government conference Thursday, a city of Charlotte official blasted the proposal, saying it was “a complete invasion” of privacy.

“I don’t want everyone in Charlotte to know I had a bad year,” said Hope Root, a city attorney.

If approved, Senate Bill 344 would require government agencies to allow the public to obtain their work performance records, including evaluations. The bill would also force local and state government to disclose the reasons employees are demoted, suspended or transferred.

The information is now kept secret under N.C. law.

Republicans who are sponsoring the bill say increasing public access to the records will “strengthen confidence in government.”

The proposal comes as state lawmakers debate another bill that would make access to public meetings and records a constitutional right in North Carolina.

Last year Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law changes that make available more information about government workers, including termination letters and the date and type of each demotion. The law permits – but does not require – officials to explain suspensions and demotions.

At Thursday’s Sunshine Day conference, sponsored by the North Carolina Open Government Coalition, journalists, lawyers and others said the public often remains in the dark about why government employees are hired, suspended, demoted or transferred.

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They Have ‘Em Sweating in North Carolina!

A legislative proposal that would make access to government records and meetings a constitutional right is drawing fire from lobbyists for local governments.

Representatives of county commissioners, municipalities, school boards and sheriffs all testified against the bill during a hearing last week in a state House committee.

If approved, the bill would put an amendment to the state constitution on the fall 2012 ballot for voters across the state to consider.

“We need to do this so that open government truly is a right rather than a privilege,” said Rep. Stephen LaRoque, a Kinston Republican who co-sponsored the bill.

“It’s pretty clear why these groups are against this: It’s because they’re in opposition to open government,” he said. “There’s just no way to debate this from their side because you have to ask them, ‘OK, what are you worried about? Are you trying to hide something that you shouldn’t?’ ”

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