On Jan. 10, 2020, the San Francisco Chronicle issued a public records request to the Sutter County Sheriff’s Office in California, asking the agency for personal information residents are required to provide in their carry permit application. Sheriff Brandon Barnes—after consultation with the county attorney—informed the newspaper his staff was compiling the legally mandated information, but the list of other details would not be forthcoming. He also alerted constituents on social media and followed with letters to permit holders.
“Currently, no information has been provided as the Chronicle has ‘paused’ their request,” Sheriff Barnes explained in an e-mail to American Rifleman. “I anticipate they will send a modified request soon. There was certain information being requested I felt would cause a public safety concern. This information included personal addresses, phone numbers, occupation, and the reason for issuance of each permit. What I did agree to provide is the permit number, name of applicant, issuance date and expiration date. This information was being gathered when the request was paused.”
Sutter County Sheriff Brandon Barnes sent the following letter to CWP holders in his county, reaffirming his commitment to protecting their personal information and upholding the Second Amendment.
A story published on The Journal News website in 2012 highlights safety concerns. The White Plains, NY-based newspaper—after securing information similar to that requested by the San Francisco Chronicle—posted an interactive map on its website with dots that indicated the residence of handgun owners in New York state’s Rockland and Westchester counties. The post, according to the Rockland County News, led to “…consecutive thefts of guns from houses on the map.” The state of New York later adopted legislation protecting the private information of such permit holders.
At the height of that controversy, then Publisher and President of the Journal News Media Group Janet Hasson explained to CNN, “One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular.” San Francisco Chronicle Editor-In-Chief Audrey Cooper issued a similar statement, explaining “It is a journalist’s job to investigate trends, and we do not intend on publishing personal information of private citizens.”
“I have been informed each of our 58 counties in California will receive a similar request for information,” Sheriff Barnes said of the latest controversy. “To date, I am only aware of my county and Butte County receiving such a request.
“This is a sensitive issue and I want everyone to know I am being mindful of their concerns while trying to meet the requirements of the law,” he added. “I believe there needs to be some legislation that supports the privacy rights of concealed weapons permit holders.”