Concealed weapons permits

Carroll woman takes shot at gun permit listing

Staff Reporter, Galax Gazette

A Carroll County woman isn't concealing her ire after her name and address - and those of 135,000 Virginians - showed up in a listing of concealed weapons permit holders published by The Roanoke Times.

Teresa Sayers, who works with local violent crime victims in the Twin Counties, feels that gun owners were treated unfairly when their names appeared in a list published March 11 as part of an opinion column by editorial writer Christian Trejbal about open records that ran in the newspaper's New River Valley Current section.

(The Gazette and The Roanoke Times are both owned by the same parent company, Landmark Communications).

The list, provided by the Virginia State Police, included names and street addresses of Virginians with permits to carry concealed weapons.

The newspaper removed the list from its Web site March 12 out of concern that it might include names that should not have been made public, said Roanoke Times president and publisher Debbie Meade.

The newspaper said it received hundreds of calls and e-mails from people who didn't think the list - a public record available to any citizen - should have been published.

“As a crime victim, it got me concerned,” Sayers told The Gazette on Monday, just after a news crew from CNN left her home.

The CNN crew filmed a piece on Sayers for a story about the controversy surrounding the newspapers' concealed weapons permit listing.

Sayers showed the crew photos of wounds she received in March 2003 when, she said, her ex-husband stabbed her eight times.

Sayers already had a concealed weapons permit at the time of the attack. “I love to shoot,” she says.

Two months after she left her husband, he tried to kill Sayers at her Tazewell County home, she said.

Her husband broke into the house “and I shot at him five times and missed every time,” she says with a laugh. “I emptied the gun.”

It's a testament to her strength that Sayers keeps such a healthy attitude about an incident that would emotionally devastate others.

She said friends kid her about her bad marksmanship.

Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told The Roanoke Times that he was concerned for the safety of domestic abuse victims, who might want to carry concealed weapons for their own protection but don't want an abusive former partner to know where they live.

With those addresses now public, “the stalkers and the rapists and those people are more empowered,” Van Cleave said.

Sayers isn't concerned about retaliation from her husband, at least for a few more decades. He's serving 36 years in prison near Richmond, including 10 years for attempted murder.

But, she worries about others who didn't want their addresses known.

Sayers said the CNN crew told her their next interview was with a parole officer whose name appeared on the list. “Three of his parolees showed up on his front porch when they found his address.”

Sayers also was upset at the tone of the Roanoke Times column, which she feels made concealed weapons owners sound like criminals.

“People who have been convicted don't have concealed weapons permits,” she says, chuckling at the irony. “The state does background checks.”

Sayers said she and others on the list are allowed to carry concealed weapons for self-protection because they are law-abiding citizens with no criminal records.

Though the list was posted on The Roanoke Times' Web site for only one day, it ignited a firestorm of controversy.

The column that contained the list was part of an ongoing series about open government.

Hundreds of readers complained on the newspaper's message board and to a gun-rights group that publishing names of concealed-weapons permit holders violated the privacy of law-abiding citizens and gave potential criminals information that could help them find victims.

One person who posted a response on the message board said they had to move twice in the past to get away from a violent ex-spouse. Because their address was published in the list, they had to move again.

Meade said she was concerned enough about complaints from readers to take the list down.

“When we posted the information, we had every reason to believe that the data the state police had supplied would comply with the [open government] statutes. But people have notified us that the list includes names that should not have been released,” Meade said in a statement posted March 12 on “Out of a sense of caution and concern for the public we have decided to take the database off of our Web site.”

Meade asked the Virginia State Police to verify the data and clarify whether it can be made public. Later, the newspaper said it would not repost the list.

Trejbal, who received threats from some angry readers, said he was disappointed that “so many people have missed the point about the column. It was not fundamentally about guns. It was fundamentally about open government.”

He expressed sympathy for concealed-weapons permit holders, like Sayers, who might have been put in a difficult position by publication of the list, but Trejbal added that information about individual permit holders is readily available at any courthouse.

“Did we make it easier [to obtain the information]? Yes,” he said. “But it's still a public record.”

Landmark News Service contributed to this article.ďż˝