Newspaper publisher apologizes to sheriff for making public records request

David Brown, the publisher of The Cherokee Scout in Murphy, N.C., has apologized for requesting public records about gun ownership from the local Sheriff's office. As reported by Romenesko:

As publisher of your local newspaper, I want to apologize to everyone we unintentionally upset with our public records request for a list of those who have or have applied for a concealed carry permit. We had no idea the the reaction it would cause.Sheriff Keith Lovin had the best interests of the people of Cherokee County at heart when he denied our request. The Scout would like to offer an apology to him as well

Awe-inspiring work, even by established standards of smalltown media obsequiousness.


    1. That explains their other apology, “When the sheriff broke into our offices and beat us with his nightstick, we totally had it coming.  We’d like to apologize again for getting blood on his shoes.”

      1. In Kansas there is now a law against this. It makes sense considering that publishing this data is basically giving a bunch of criminals a shopping list.

        1. publishing this data is basically giving a bunch of criminals a shopping list.

          Sort of like the phone book.

        2. I thought people knowing there are guns somewhere was supposed to make people safer. Now that isn’t true.


          1. Universal licensing/education for would-be guns owners would be more effective than requiring people to actually register firearms.

            If you didn’t have to register guns then how would we know who should be required to get a such a license?

          2. Having a public statement of your gun ownership probably makes you less susceptible to home invasion and more susceptible to burglary while you are away from home.

          3. Then I guess by that measure owning a gun does make the family safer.  At least from being shot by a robber.

            It does nothing to protect your children or their friends from accidentally shooting each other or themselves.  Or someone shooting you with it when you come home during a burglary.

            I’d rest easier if firearms safety classes were a requirement for gun ownership.  It’s not taking away rights, it’s enforcing a responsibility.

            I’m not pro firearms, but I certainly don’t feel that there should be a total gun ban.

            We could do a lot of things to help the situation, but it would seem both firearms enthusiasts and anti-firearms proponents forget that they have a large common ground in that they both want to reduce firearms related deaths.  Both sides seem to demonize each other and forget that they both want the same thing in the end.

          4.  @Idobe – The public does share common ground, but the weapons manufacturers and the NRA (their lobby) do not. They only care about sales.

          5. I don’t think so. You have to sleep sometime. If a group of reasonably informed people who use the Internet to learn how to open a deadbolt decided to invade your house at night, they would be able to do so fairly easily.

          1. You… I like you.

            News flash bub, they already do and in great numbers I might add. Hell I know a little place in Alabama, if you got cash and a couple of hours you can have just about anything short of full-auto SMGs and bazookas, no records, no receipts, no nuthin’ as the gent that runs the place would say. Also I imagine if you had enough money those more high-line items could be had too.

            Or maybe it’s like the gun shop down the road from me where the owner shot his own son in  a tussle with a robber who indeed did get away with the guns and then not even an hour later went on a shooting spree at a government facility. 

            So, you we’re being all sanctimoniously sarcastic and snide, carry on…

        3. The Scout was never going to PUBLISH anything, Isaac. They were doing research on the areas where gun ownership is the highest. They were never going to publish names or addresses or anything like that at all. This is a huge lie and the reason this apology had to be written in the first place.

          People need to think. They flip out when it comes to guns… but a lot of people don’t think they just jump to conclusions.

        4. Funny, I would think that would flag places that criminals would rather avoid. Sort of like having Homes with Large Angry Territorial Dogs. Are you now suggesting that people who own guns attract crime?

      1. In South Africa it seems you just have to walk into your boyfriend’s home without calling ahead of time.

          1. You mean how like Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend was already there and had been in bed with him?

  1. The people who say that public records are private are funny, but not as funny as 2nd amendment libertarians thanking the government for protecting them from the media.

    1.  No, it’s code for “we did nothing wrong, but some people went batshit, and we’re too spineless to stand up to them”

      1. See yumtacos’ post below. Wife and four children + death threats =/= spineless. You have to consider the man’s position.

      2. No, it’s code for “We did nothing wrong, but our readership is so low that we’ll stoop down even to this to retain subscribers and keep the cash flow.”

  2. According to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer, the publisher had risked being designated an illegitimate journalist. Gotta keep your access in place, even in bumfuck Cackalacky.

    1. There’s no such thing as an “illegitimate journalist,” in San Diego County or anywhere else in the United States. If the San Diego County Sheriff’s Public Information Officer doesn’t know that, he’s too stupid to hold his job. And if he knows it and is lying about it, he’s too crooked to hold his job.

       And under the N.C. state law that covers this particular situation, anyone has the right to walk in off the street, ask to see the records, and, for a reasonable copying fee, get a copy. He doesn’t have to tell you who he is. He doesn’t  have to tell you whom he works for. He doesn’t have to give you a reason, except maybe “because I fucking said so.” And that’s as it should be for almost all state and local government records.

      1. It’s a she, and she is not at all shy about describing who gets access and who doesn’t. See Matt Hicks’ link a couple down from here.

  3. Let’s hope that another larger organization will make the same request and not back down (again, assuming the records are public). It’s not necessary to publish the list of names, etc., but fighting back the chilling effect would be helpful, in general. (I acknowledge that some less meta journalistic purpose should also be served in acquiring the data. I’ll leave that to the journalists to determine.)

    1.  The Sacramento Bee published a database of the names and salaries (and other job info) of all California state workers a few years ago. Also public information, and the reason was to publicize how many state employees were making $100K+ (over 17,000), but the employees weren’t real happy about it.
      At least one woman who had switched jobs a few times to get away from her stalker ex-husband was found (and threatened) because of the database.

          1. if that is the case then i agree they probably should have acted more responsibly with that information.

            i’d also add that since the original database is public there is nothing stopping anyone else from requesting it just like the sacramento bee did.  the sacramento bee only REpublished something that wasn’t already available to the public.

          2. They took a DB that was apparently available if you went to several state offices and requested to look at printouts and made it easily accessible on the web.
            There are arguments on both sides of that. 1) Isn’t that a newspaper’s JOB? To make data easily accessible to the public?
            but 2) The possibilities for misuse are huge.
            Boingboing articles (and I) have the same dichotomy: Assange and Wikileaks are good, the gov’t collecting data on YOU is bad.

      1. That’s pretty common. Iowa newspapers do it, and Tennessee newspapers do it. I’m sure others do too.

        I’m a bit amused at the pearl-clutching over $100,000+ salaries. So the state’s not supposed to retain any doctors, lawyers, or other people with high-demand skills? Or is the state just supposed to hire the ones that come cheap?

        And for that huge salary, in most CA urban areas, you can live, what, an efficiency apartment?

        1. Not to mention the fact that some of those folks are M.D.’s teaching medicine, legal professors teaching law and so forth. They could be making a HELL of a lot more money in the private sector, but, hey, they like teaching.

        2.  “state employee” is a conservative dog whistle, you don’t have to try to read too deeply into it.  Not a lot of logic involved.

  4. And once again we close another internet edition of “People who love guns and the rest of us who’d prefer not to get shot”.  No minds were changed in the making of these comments.

    1. I would have divided people into A) those who understand that this post is about journalistic integrity and B) the other 99% of the population, who just want to argue about guns.

      1. I’d subdivide the journalistic part into people who understood that the publisher and editor of the paper were almost certainly thratened and the others. I’ve got family up that way. It’s effin’ scary. The difference between Cherokee County and the more urban N.C. county where I live is almost like the difference between midtown Manhattan and Mogadishu.

  5. It’s funny how the people complaining about the supposed violation of privacy in this instance aren’t complaining about the sex offender registry or mug shot databases. Could it be because deep down, they understand that gun ownership is also something to be ashamed of? And why is it socially acceptable for me to want to protect my kids from prostitutes, drug dealers, and pedophiles, but not from people who have guns in the house? Guns are probably the greater danger. They are certainly more numerous.

    This information should be public, and it should be published for every community.

    1. Do you ever let your kids leave the house?  Keeping them home is the only way to be sure they don’t get killed by guns (assuming you don’t have a bunch of them in your house).

      Do you really believe that prostitutes, drug dealers and random pedos are after your children?

      Since most of your concerns (2 of 3) revolve around your kids and sex (with adults), I thought I might point out that children are much more likely to be molested by someone related to them or an acquaintance.  Girls are much more likely to be molested in their own home than boys, so if you have boys, your random pedo worries are slightly more reasonable.

    2. Your comparison is ridiculous. You’re trying to equate all legal gun owners with felons who’ve been convicted in court of committing crimes and being a danger to society. There’s this little legal standard we have that goes “all persons are innocent until proven guilty.” Does it surprise you that those legal gun owners are trying to protect themselves from those very same people that you’re afraid of? That they’re actually on your side?

      My little .22 target pistol is of no danger to you and your children. The only time that bullets get anywhere near it is when I’m inside of a little 3×4 foot box on the floor at the shooting range. Yet you’d like to put my picture and details on a map on a website just like rapists. You believe I deserve that?

      1.  Um, this is about concealed carry permits, is it not? And, yeah, it’s nice to know how many wackadoodles who can’t ‘feel safe’ going out without a gun there are around. Makes folk think more about what kind of a neighbourhood it is…

        1. I was targeted for murder by affiliates of a well-known Salvadoran criminal organization because my neighbors saw me talking to the police about a murder that happened right in front of me. I moved away, and they found me. Under the law in my city/county I am not eligible for a concealed carry permit despite the demonstrable danger to my life, but people who contribute large sums to the election campaign of the local Sheriff are often given those permits.

          Please tell me more about the special insight that you have into my situation that allows you do dismissively label me a “whackadoodle”. 

  6. I find it hilarious that BB commenters are responding so intelligently while the alleged journalists over at Romenesko are just harrumphing and patting themselves on the back because they think they’d stand up to the Sheriff of Concealed-Carry County.

    (That said, BB got the name wrong.)

  7. So in America, I have the right to know if my neighbour ever once peed in an alley, but not if they have an arms cache.

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