Published January 25, 2014
A national newspaper chain never intended to create a multi-state database of gun owners with permits allowing them to carry concealed weapons according to its top executive, who told FoxNews.com a "poorly crafted" internal memo erroneously indicated such an idea was being planned.
The memo -- sent by a top content editor to various editors at Civitas Media, which owns about 100 newspapers in 11 states, with 1.6 million in total circulation -- laid out a plan for an enterprise project that would use public information requests to establish the database. But Civitas President and CEO Michael Bush, in an email after FoxNews.com reported the story on Friday, stated that the memo should not have been sent and that the notion of such a project had been "rejected" upon consideration.
“Civitas Media never had any plans or intentions of publishing in print or online lists of holders of 'conceal and carry' permits," Bush wrote to FoxNews.com. “Nor will Civitas Media develop databases of permit holders. A poorly crafted internal memo meant to highlight editorial discussions and planning incorrectly indicated that such a database was being planned; it has been considered and rejected.”
The Jan. 19 memo raised the prospect of a much larger version of a controversial project carried out by in 2012 by a New York state newspaper that included an online map identifying gun owners in two counties by name and address.
The aborted Civitas project would have "examine[d] 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.”
Lawitz downplayed the email when reached on Friday, saying the company had "no plans to publish" any lists or databases.
“In news organizations, a variety of ideas routinely are discussed, researched and planned, which may or may not result in published work,” Lawitz told FoxNews.com. “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.”
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.
“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. “There’s no other purpose for creating these lists but to target and victimize gun owners,” Baus told FoxNews.com.
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."
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said newspaper-compiled databases of legal gun owners and their permits serve 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.