It’s very important to understand that the Civitas Institute has no connection whatsoever to a newspaper chain that reportedly was considering a database of people with concealed-carry permits.
The claim has been made by the Buckeye Firearms Association:
According to an internal email provided to Buckeye Firearms Association by a confidential source, Civitas Media, which owns some 88 newspapers across the country, has discussed the use of “public records act requests” to “build state-by-state databases that list those who have the right to carry” firearm licenses.
There is no connection between the nonprofit Civitas Institute and the newspaper chain, a private company which by coincidence is headquartered in North Carolina, but has newspapers across the country.
The Civitas Institute fully supports the Second Amendment, and the right of law-abiding citizens to obtain permits to legally carry concealed firearms.
The gun-registry scheme looks like a tactic to intimidate and harass people who have legal permits to carry firearms to protect themselves. The newspaper company has disavowed any plans to create a gun registry.
A previous Civitas blog post reported that Rocky Mount City Councilman and Witness Wednesday arrestee Andre Knight made comments which could easily be interpreted as calling a community leader a racist. This happened when that community leader was presenting a petition for the City of Rocky Mount to have a public hearing on whether or not the city should build a proposed Event Center downtown. Wait a minute there is more to the story.
In the meeting, which took place Jan. 13, there was a proposal put forth to approve $67,430 to include a study that would be run by Visions Inc. Senator Angela Bryant(D- Nash) runs this organization, and Rocky Mount City Councilman Lamont Wiggins is on the board. The Rocky Mount Telegram reported that “(t)he intent of the plan was to assist the city in recognizing the importance of a diverse workforce reflective of the community as much as possible allowing the city to better understand and respond to citizens,” said Assistant City Manager Ann Wall in a memorandum to City Manager Charles Penny. “The intent of the plan was also to establish a workplace which values employees and encourages their development.” The study was approved that night, since September of 2012 the City of Rocky Mount will have spent $413,220 just on studies for the City and for building of the proposed $43.6 million Event Center. Citizens in the community are beginning to become upset that the city is spending the taxpayers’ money not only to help a local Senator and City Councilman but to also build an Event Center that is of questionable value.
Another thing to look at about the Visions study that was approved was the fact that it passed the City Council with a voice vote. Some said “Aye”, no one said “No”, and no one recused themselves. If LaMont Wiggins is on the board for Visions Inc. wouldn’t it be a conflict of interest for him to vote on the approval of the study?
Since the 1960s, so-called “sunshine laws” have helped to shine the light of public scrutiny into the dark corridors of government. Under state and federal law, any citizen can request documents that are made or kept by government agencies. Open records are vital to our government. They are an invaluable tool for keeping government officials accountable.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop government agencies from trying to get around the law and keep the public in the dark. Just this week, the U.S. Navy accidentally sent a reporter the Navy’s detailed strategy for stonewalling his public records request. The internal memo included several pending FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. For each entry, Navy officials had written helpful advice to their public affairs officers:
I would recommend negotiating with the requester…Josh can help with crafting the language…
Recommend that you provide the requester with an estimate, as I can see the search and review, possible redactions, will be very costly. This may encourage the requester to “narrow the scope.”
This one is specific enough that we may be able to deny.
The sad thing is that this approach is all too common in government. Although public officials pay lip service to transparency, their actions show otherwise. Civitas files public records requests quite frequently, and it is the rare respondent who acts promptly and correctly in accordance with the law. There is an elaborate dance, which often features one or more of the following:
- The runaround: Oh, sorry, this is the wrong place! You’ve got to talk to Jim in another department. What’s that? You already talked to him? He said to talk to us? Well, that’s just not true. Try talking to Jennifer.
- The delay: Yes, we have received your request. Yes, it was sent three months ago. We are in contact with our public affairs people. They will advise us when it is completed.
- The office lawyer: You asked me for every report from the past month. I interpreted your use of the word “every” to mean “some.” Perhaps you are unaware that this is an accepted definition?
- The accountant: According to our calculations, the cost of responding to your request will be approximately $200,000. Where shall I send the bill?
- The cricket: *Silence*
These tactics by government are frustrating, and intentionally so. When it comes to open records, sometimes government acts like a small child who would rather throw an hour-long tantrum rather than pick up a toy off the ground. But in the end, the response must always be the same as a parent’s: Be patient, and don’t let up until the child does what he is supposed to do.