The WRAL article seems harmless at first. “Rural areas lead in concealed weapons permit rates,” says the title. Indeed, the article itself is fairly neutral. But the bombshell lies within. Under a section entitled “Find concealed carry permit holders in your area,” the station thoughtfully provides a database of concealed handgun permit-holders, searchable by address.
Although the search engine doesn’t provide the names or street numbers of permit-holders (at least not yet), the fact that many small streets contain only a few homes subjects gun owners to burglary and other criminal predation. So far, the station’s official dodge is that the information is public record. What they don’t say is that the information is otherwise only available by a request in writing from the State Bureau of Investigation, not as a “criminal-friendly,” address-searchable web link.
Below is GRNC president Paul Valone’s message to the WRAL staffer tasked with responding to input. What happens next is up to them. Feel free to add your input by contacting: Kelly Hinchcliffe, Investigates/Special Projects Producer, WRAL.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 919-821-8549.
To: Kelly Hinchcliffe, Investigates/Special Projects Producer, WRAL-TV
From: F. Paul Valone, President, Grass Roots North Carolina
Re: “Find concealed handgun permit-holders in your area” (July 12)
As our members have noted, WRAL-TV has engaged in the most irresponsible sort of journalism, potentially exposing concealed handgun permit-holders to criminal predation. Whether the information is available as public record (where it is only available if requested from the State Bureau of Investigation) is irrelevant. Even absent specific names, you have created a database searchable by location, including small streets on which it should be relatively easy to determine which homes contain firearms. We have now received dozens of complaints from gun-owning North Carolinians.
As you may be aware, Grass Roots North Carolina was the principal architect of our state’s concealed handgun law and improvements made since its inception in 1995. We have a longstanding policy of addressing this type of journalistic irresponsibility by using economic action. Accordingly, I strong advise WRAL to:
(1) Remove the search link from its site immediately; and
(2) Issue a public apology to North Carolina concealed handgun permit-holders.
If the information is not removed by the open of business on Friday (July 13, 2012), Grass Roots North Carolina will use its email alert network of nearly 60,000 gun owners to target selected WRAL advertisers with a message that gun owners will not buy from them until they terminate their advertising relationship with your station. We will then rotate from one advertiser to the next until the information is removed. I would suggest you contact your superiors and address the problem immediately.
F. Paul Valone
President, Grass Roots North Carolina