9 months, 2 weeks ago
I hiked and camped and went shooting and trained quarter horses in my youth. The woods and mountains of South and North Carolina was my playground. If I had been raised in the mountains of Virginia I might have made a little untaxed corn liquor in a still. I have never made moonshine, but I still pride myself on knowing something about my region.
I was watching a recent episode of Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners, and I remarked to one of my sons visiting with us that “those boys are to the West of us from around Murphy.” Later in the season I learned that I was right. Like I said, I know my region. Like the times in which I grew up, around Murphy, your handshake means something and speaking directly to your face instead of going behind your back shows respect. People are generous, perhaps to a fault, but no one wants government intervention in their lives, or meddling foreigners either. Minding your own business is of paramount importance.
In what may be the most remarkable instance of “you ain’t from around here, are you” I have ever seen, the local news in Murphy tried to obtain concealed handgun permit information, and was soundly trounced.
The Cherokee Scout of Murphy, North Carolina, has printed an absolutely groveling apology to its readers and to the local sheriff for even asking the sheriff for public records of those with concealed carry gun permits. Publisher David Brown writes, “We never meant to offend the wonderful people of this community,” in a letter noticed by media blogger Jim Romenesko. Again, this is discussing public records that, according to North Carolina law, the sheriff legally is legally required to make public. The editor who made the public records request was subsequently threatened on Facebook.
Last week Cherokee Scout editor Robert Horne asked sheriff Keith Lovin for a list of locals seeking concealed carry permits. Lovin ignored state law and denied the request. He also posted the letters on the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, a space that appears to be used primarily to post photos of good-looking locals involved in meth busts and robberies. Facebook commenters were furious. ”Didn’t they do this up north a couple of months ago. It was a fiasco,” one commenter asked. (The answer is sort of: The Journal News, in suburban New York, published a map of locals licensed to own handguns.) The outcry was big enough to get covered by other local news outlets. Here’s a Facebook comment that was likely exactly what Lovin was looking for: “Thank you Sheriff Lovin for your patriotism and high morale caliber! Will definitely be voting for you again!”
Publisher Brown initially had a different tone. “We should have expected Sheriff Keith Lovin’s posting of his correspondence with Editor Robert Horne, because he knows he can’t win in a court of law but wants to win in the court of public opinion,” he wrote in a letter on February 21. But he was already looking to calm down readers. “The truth is… we never had any desire nor intention to publish any names of any person carrying a concealed weapon.”
In the February 21 letter the editor and publisher sound simply indignant. They said “We should have expected Sheriff Keith Lovin’s posting of his correspondence with Editor Robert Horne because he knows he can’t win in a court of law but wants to win in the court of public opinion. He also knows’s that he’s breaking the law because if the list wasn’t open, he wouldn’t have been pushing the state Legislature to close it … However, despite the fact that the Scout would likely win a lawsuit, we have no intention of taking it to court.”
Only two days later they ran with this note to readers.
The Cherokee Scout made a tremendous error in judgment this week, and thanks to our readers we learned a tough lesson.
As publisher of your local newspaper, I want to apologize to everyone we unintentionally upset with our public records request for a list of those who have or have applied for a concealed carry permit. We had no idea the the reaction it would cause.
Sheriff Keith Lovin had the best interests of the people of Cherokee County at heart when he denied our request. The Scout would like to offer an apology to him as well.
To that end, Editor Robert Horne spoke with Lovin on Friday morning to tell him we were withdrawing our public records request. He asked for a written copy of request, and Horne dropped it off at his office that morning.
I realize many people are upset with Horne, myself and the Scout and we can understand that. We never meant to offend the wonderful people of this fine community nor hurt the reputation of this newspaper. We do a lot of positive work that helps make Cherokee County an even better place to live, and I hope more good work will repair our reputation with readers.
Many of you have asked where Horne is from. He is from a small town in south Georgia — Cairo, Ga., to be exact. It is a rural area much like Murphy, and his roots are helping him better understand this community.
“Better understand the community.” He went after private information, possibly lied about his reasons (why would you want it unless you intended to divulge it), and then tried to invoke the law in his quest to meddle in the affairs of others.
As for Sheriff Lovin, rock on, but leave the gun owners and moonshiners alone. As for the North Carolina State Legislature, be about your business making the records of concealed handgun permits unavailable to public disclosure. We’re waiting, and watching, and taking notes. As for the editor of the paper, you might want to go back to where you came from. You picked the wrong town in which to tilt progressive, boy.