A West Virginia Sheriff could be facing misdemeanor charges after he has refused to release the names of gun permit holders to 2 local newspaper companies.
Sheriff Patrick Butler has decided to defy the law after The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register filed a request for a list of names and information of concealed carry weapon permit holders.
Under West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, Sheriff Butler is bound the law to grant the request for the publicly available information. But rather than allowing the newspapers to take these names and publish them — as other newspapers have done — he went to Facebook to explain why he refused to comply.
He wrote on a Facebook page,
Sheriff Butler has denied this request, as he feels the release of this information is a violation of privacy; as well as comprises the safety of our residents. Sheriff Butler believes that the CCW Permit Holders have a right to know that there has been a request for this information to be made public.
Sheriff Butler also told local media station wtov9.com,
“First of all, I think it’s an invasion of privacy, and I think it’s a dangerous precedent to set to let people all over the Ohio Valley know who has permits and who doesn’t.”
“If you see someone’s name in the paper that has a gun and they go on vacation there’s a good chance they’ll have guns in their house,” added Sheriff Butler. “If their name isn’t in the paper, meaning they don’t have a weapon, well. I think burglars would target that area because they’d get less resistance.”
“I believe it’s been ruled it’s public record, but I am going to disagree with that until the day I’m out of office,” stated Sheriff Butler.
Many Facebook users and gun owners showed their support for the sheriff saying that the newspapers companies should be run out of town.
Mike Myer, editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, recently told the Columbia Journalism Review, “I don’t plan to leave town.”
“Obviously you’re in a slippery slope situation if a sheriff can unilaterally deny a request for that type of public record,” Myer added. “What kind of record is he likely to deny next?”
Sheriff Butler countered, “I may end up in jail. We’re prepared to fight it all the way.”
The West Virginia Freedom of Information Act states what kind of punishment the sheriff could be facing:
Any custodian of a public record who willfully violates the Act is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction may be fined from $100.00 to $500.00 or imprisoned in the county jail for up to ten (10) days, or both.
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