As North Carolina legislators move to close public access to firearm permits, some sheriffs are already refusing to hand over the records, the Charlotte Observer reports. After a public showdown with the sheriff in Cherokee County, a local newspaper editor quit last week after his records request – which was denied – made him the target of death threats. The county has the state's highest rate of concealed-handgun permits. In Gaston County, Sheriff Alan Cloninger responded Friday to a newspaper's request for gun-permit records by withholding names and addresses of permit holders.
As the nation revisits gun control after the Newtown massacre, the sheriffs embody another facet of the debate: What are we entitled to know, through public records, about our neighbors' weaponry? Very little, under bills before the N.C. House and Senate. The bills, backed by gun-rights groups and the North Carolina Sheriff's Association, would make handgun and concealed-handgun permits off-limits to the public. Legislators in 10 of the 12 states where such records are now accessible, have introduced measures to close them, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reports. The group counts 28 states that don't make gun records public and 10 states where access is limited.