Editor resigns after death threats from furious gun owners

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 11:59 EDT
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An editor of a small newspaper in North Carolina resigned this week following an onslaught of death threats over his information request for the names of concealed carry permit holders and applicants in his area.

Robert Horne, former editor of The Cherokee Scout, asked the local sheriff in Cherokee County last week for information on local gun owners, not intending to publish their names but merely to put a number to how many people legally possess firearms.

When the sheriff balked and said it was not public information, Horne went to the city attorney, who said it is public. Then the sheriff posted the information request on Facebook, and the controversy officially began.

“As the Sheriff of Cherokee County I feel that it is my responsibility to provide for the safety of all citizens of Cherokee County,” Sheriff Keith Lovin wrote. “My Office will continue to support the constitution and all amendments including the Second Amendment. I will continue to uphold my Oath of Office and serve the Citizens of Cherokee County.”

The paper dropped its information request on Feb. 22, one day after the publisher, David Brown, wrote a lengthy apology to readers that cited both he and Horne as parents and loyal members of the community, and apologized for Horne’s “tremendous error in judgement.”

Then, on Tuesday, Horne told media reporter Jim Romenesko that he’s decided to quit his post at the paper and move out of the state after numerous death threats. He claimed the publisher did not pressure him to step down, but did it for the good of the paper.

“During his seven-plus years as editor, Horne led the Scout and Journal news staffs to more than 50 awards in annual contests sponsored by the N.C. Press Association and Community Newspapers Inc., including first place in General Excellence, Best of CNI and the President’s Award, along with honors for his editorial and column writing,” the paper explained in a story published Wednesday. “Horne is leaving the local newspapers to pursue other opportunities as well as relocate closer to family.”

A similar situation occurred when a newspaper in New York state published a map showing the names and addresses of people who legally own firearms, sparking a firestorm of controversy and a retaliation that saw most of the paper’s staff targeted by a blogger who released their personal information, including photos of staffers’ children.

That paper, The Journal News, did not apologize for its actions and instead defended the database as prescient information in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. They did, however, remove the names of licensed gun owners from their database.

Photo: Flickr user gordontarpley, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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