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FOIA battle in Wheeling noted by Columbia Journalism Review

A West Virginia paper stands its ground in a fight over guns and public records

CHARLESTON, SC — A throwdown between a county sheriff and a small-town newspaper is showing once again how some local law enforcement officials oppose laws that make gun records public—and how they’re prepared to confront media organizations that seek access to the records.

But while this latest dispute is eerily similar to an incident last year that led a North Carolina editor to resign and leave town, the editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in West Virginia’s northern panhandle is standing his ground. “Nobody’s going to run me out of my home,” he says.

On March 4, Fred Connors, a staff writer at the two papers, filed a public-records request with the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office: “Under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act … I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records that list all residents who have received a concealed carry permit from your office.” Connors didn’t say what his paper planned to do with the information, but wrote that disclosure of the information was “in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of this issue.”

A few days later, Ohio County Sheriff Patrick Butler wrote back. He didn’t cite any provision in state law to deny the request—and later he acknowledged that the records were public under the law—but told Connors the newspaper would not be getting them anyway. …

See more at the Columbia Journalism Review

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