|Gaston Gazette photo illustration|
The reporters note the well-publicized case of Cherokee County, which they report has "the state’s highest rate of concealed-handgun permits," almost 7 percent of the population, and report that Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger responded March 1 to the Gaston Gazette's request for gun-permit records by withholding names and addresses of permit holders."
Cherokee County Sheriff Keith Lovin refused the Cherokee Scout's request for permit records and posted his correspondence with the paper on his Facebook page, creating public pressure that made the weekly paper first withdraw its request and then apologize. "Records request elsewhere have drawn similar reactions," the Observer reports.
“People feel threatened when other people find out if they have guns or not,” The Poynter Institute's Andrew Beaujon, who has tracked the controversies, told the Observer. The newspaper got a database of Mecklenburg County premittees from the sheriff, who "reluctantly provided" the records, it reports, adding, "The Observer sought the information to better understand a surge in gun ownership."
The bill to close the records in North Carolina began in Gaston County, where county commissioners called for it and the Gazette asked for the local permit list. The records the sheriff provided Friday "didn’t include the names or addresses of permit holders – only their ages, genders and zip codes," the Observer reports.