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Newspaper chain plans 'state-by-state' concealed weapon databases

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A new study finds that an increase in concealed carry permits has accompanied a decrease in murder. (AP)

A national newspaper chain with nearly 100 publications and 1.6 million readers is considering building “state-by-state databases” on concealed weapons permit holders, according to an internal e-mail.

The plan, laid out in an email from a top editor at North Carolina-based Civitas Media, could be similar to a controversial project a New York state newspaper carried out in 2012 which included an online map that identified gun owners in two counties by name and address. Civitas' database project was detailed in a Jan. 19 e-mail to newsrooms across the chain, which has papers in 11 states, including Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The newest project "examines the explosion of ‘conceal and carry’ gun permits across the U.S.,” wrote Jim Lawitz, Civitas’ director of content, in an e-mail first obtained by the Buckeye Firearms Association. “Through public records act requests, we will attempt to build state-by-state databases that list those who have the right to carry a concealed weapon.”

"They’re saying they’re not going to publish the list, but once the list is compiled, what are they going to do with it?"

- Chad Baus, Buckeye Firearms Association

Lawitz downplayed the email when reached early Friday by FoxNews.com.

“In news organizations, a variety of ideas routinely are discussed, researched and planned, which may or may not result in published work,” Lawitz said. “Typically we do not publicly comment on internal proprietary communication. However, we have no plans to publish any lists or databases of people’s names on conceal and carry.”

Lawitz declined further comment.

Civitas Media, according to its website, employs more than 1,400 people and publishes 35 daily and 63 weekly publications for a combined circulation of more than 1.6 million.

Chad Baus, secretary of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told FoxNews.com he received the email from a confidential source within the company who was “concerned” about the media group’s plans. Whatever the intention behind the proposed databases, Baus said he wants the effort stopped.

“The goal is to raise awareness because each and every time a newspaper organization does this type of thing, the public reacts very strongly to it,” Baus said. “And yes, we do want it stopped. They’re saying they’re not going to publish the list, but once the list is compiled, what are they going to do with it?”

The database, if indeed created according to the internal email obtained by Baus, would be used to further “demonize gun owners,” he said.

“There’s no other purpose for creating these lists but to target and victimize gun owners,” Baus told FoxNews.com.

As a gun owner himself, Baus isn’t concerned with potentially becoming a target for would-be burglars, but others may not feel the same way, he said.

“There are many people who choose for that information not to be public, whether for employment reasons or family politics,” he said. “Many law-abiding people don’t want that information to be public.”

The New York project, by the Gannett-owned Journal News, angered Second Amendment advocates across the country, who said it was an effort to stigmatize legal gun owners. Some law enforcement officials also complained the interactive map, published with an article entitled "The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood," provided burglars with a roadmap of which homes to avoid and which ones to hit. 

The newspaper nevertheless defended the decision to publish the material, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.

"The massacre in Newtown remains top-of-mind for many of our readers," a statement said. "In the past week, conversation on our opinion pages and on our website, LoHud.com, has been keenly focused on gun control.

"Our readers are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods. We obtained the names and addresses of Westchester and Rockland residents who are licensed to own handguns through routine Freedom of Information law public-records requests."

Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for the Gun Owners of America, said he believes Civitas Media will ultimately publish the databases, despite Lawitz’s statement to FoxNews.com.

“Why would a newspaper chain go to the trouble of compiling a list if they had no interest in publishing it?” he said. “Isn’t that what newspapers do? It’s clear that this newspaper chain doesn’t intend to do [gun owners] good.”

National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the project serves no journalistic purpose.

“There is no legitimate need for any news organization to compile a list of law-abiding citizens who have concealed carry permits,” Arulanandam told FoxNews.com. “There are serious security concerns. For example, some people who have carry permits have stalkers and these news organizations are essentially providing a lighted pathway to the homes of these individuals.”

 

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