By: Joe Strupp
The Roanoke (Va.) Times removed an online database of state residents who are licensed to carry concealed weapons after what the paper termed “a firestorm of criticism,” the Times reported Tuesday.
“The list, published as part of an opinion column about open records that ran Sunday in the newspaper’s New River Valley Current section, was taken down Monday afternoon out of concern that it might include names that should not have been made public,” the paper reported. The Times added that it had not received any “official word from Virginia State Police, which provided the data at the paper’s request.”
Publisher Debbie Meade said she was “concerned enough about complaints from readers to act out of an abundance of caution.”
“Our concern is that if the information should have been protected and it wasn’t, then we don’t want to run it,” Meade said in the paper.
Ironically, the Sunday column helped kick off the annual “Sunshine Week” that many newspapers mark every year.
The list included the names and street addresses of about 135,000 Virginians with permits to carry concealed weapons and was linked to a column by editorial writer Christian Trejbal that ran in the paper on Sunday, the Times reported.
“Hundreds of readers complained on the newspaper’s message board and to a gun-rights group that publishing the names of concealed-weapons permit holders violated the privacy of law-abiding citizens and gave potential criminals information that would help them find victims,” the paper stated.
“By publishing that list, you’ve created a windfall for criminals,” Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told the Times. Van Cleave and others “argued that convicted felons, barred from buying guns at stores, could use the list to select homes to burglarize in their search for firepower.”
A written statement released by the newspaper stressed that the decision to remove the list was made “out of a sense of caution and concern for the public” that was based on questions about whether some names should have been included.