Outrageous: Raleigh, N.C. CBS Affiliate Station WRAL Publishes Searchable Database of Concealed Carry Licensees

*Corrected from earlier | WRAL, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., recently published a searchable database of concealed carry licensees within the "WRAL viewing area, including Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Nash, Northampton, Person, Sampson, Vance, Warren, Wayne, Wilson and Wake counties." Searches do not turn up names or street numbers, but they do give a number of permits issued to residents on that street.

The search form for the database appears within a story filed July 12 (updated July 20 -- the day of the Aurora, Colo., shooting), entitled "Rural areas lead in concealed weapons permit rates." Numerous conservative blogs have been taking WRAL to task for the decision, including native North Carolinian Sister Toldjah (emphasis hers):


What has WRAL’s response been?

Steve Hammel, WRAL-TV vice president and general manager, said his news outlet published no information that was not already available to the public when it posted its July 12 report on concealed-weapons permit holders.

“We’ve released public records that anyone out there can easily obtain,” Hammel said.

Hammel used the incident as an opportunity to opine on the First Amendment and Second Amendment, saying they carried equal weight.

“Both are vital,” Hammel said in a July 20 post. “Both make this a great country.”

Hammel batted back accusations that the news organization was trying to take away guns, change gun laws, attack the Second Amendment or render judgment on the lawfulness of those who carry concealed guns.

The targeted complaints, Hammel said, were unlikely to make the organization back away from an issue.

“As far as we’re concerned, it creates the opposite effect,” Hammel said. “We have the resolve to report news.”

In other words, WRAL doesn’t give a d*mn about their irresponsibility in making readily available to any criminal out there a “searchable” database of neighborhoods where CCW permit holders reside. To WRAL, this is all about defiantly pushing back against people – mostly conservatives, I’m sure – who don’t like having their privacy rights violated by an anti-2nd Amendment agenda-driven mainstream media news outlet that is invoking the First Amendment in defense of their actions. Some might think, “Hey, this is great – they can’t see the names of people in the neighborhoods but a criminal searching this database will know where they shouldn’t go.” Problem is it makes it easy for criminals to find soft target neighborhoods where they are less likely to be confronted by a gun owner. I’m sure this wasn’t the intent of WRAL but nevertheless that’s a potentially dangerous & devastating consequence of their attempt at scaring the public both with their article and their searchable database.

As far as Hammel’s assertion that this database was “easily obtainable” – if so, why didn’t the article link directly to the state database itself rather than creating their own? I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’ve heard you have to get permission from the SBI to access those records in the first place, but even if you didn’t, a mere Google search does not automatically connect you to a CCW permit holder database for NC – outside of the one posted on the WRAL website.

Keep in mind this database was introduced 8 days prior to the Aurora, Colorado, mass murder, well before the liberal media started a heavy drumbeat to resurrect the gun control debate.

WRAL carries national CBS programming, including the CBS Evening News, but it is not owned by the network. WRAL is owned by the Capitol Broadcasting Company (CBC) of Raleigh, N.C.

"As a driving force in the community, we are a catalyst for positive change," CBC boasts in its Code of Ethics. "We treat our audience and customers with respect and provide accurate, balanced information in a timely and professional manner," and, "We listen to and respect customer and audience feedback and respond to feedback in a timely and appropriate fashion," CBC also claims of its broadcasting properties.

In fairness, the article itself isn't bad, indeed, it favorably treats pro-gun rights voices in the story itself, like gun store owner and concealed carry instructor Charles Elrod who "said that he teaches classes to a variety of people, including soldiers who want to be able to carry in civilian life, crime victims who want to feel more secure and, increasingly, senior citizens":

The Elrods' class is typical of similar classes around the state. It involves a day-long or two evening classroom sessions as well as time spent qualifying on a gun range. State law requires that those who want to qualify hit the target 28 out of 40 shots fired.

"We tell each of them, 'We hope you never, ever have to do this,'" Charles Elrod said. "But in the event you do, we've got to be certain you can hit that bullseye and not hit anyone else, because if you hit bystanders you're in trouble."

That being said, the decision to add a searchable database that can be easily abused is an inexcusable violation of the company's code of ethics, not to mention common sense.

*An initial version erroneously stated that WRAL was based in Charlotte. It is based in Raleigh. My apologies for the error.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters