GASTONIA, N.C. -- A Gaston County Commissioner is taking steps to make gun ownership information private.
County Commissioner Tracy Philbeck introduced a resolution at Thursday night's meeting that aims to exempt records of handgun purchase and concealed carry permits from the North Carolina Public Records Act. Philbeck said only law enforcement would have access to the records under his proposal.
"There is nothing criminal about owning a gun," said Philbeck. "But certain media and anti-gun lobbyists have taken that information and used it defame, almost criminalize, gun owners."
Philbeck explained he first got the idea for the resolution when newspapers and television stations started publishing public gun-ownership records online, in databases listing names and addresses.
"Retired law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence -- these are individuals who have purchased these firearms legally, for some kind of safety. Now, though, their identities and where they live is being exposed. This is a safety issue," said Philbeck.
Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger, a democrat, agreed.
"I believe, personally, this wasn't the intent of the public records law," the sheriff said. "It is a public safety issue to me. It gives intelligence to the criminals in our community of who has guns and who doesn't. Tells them who may be an easy target."
Cloninger told the Board of Commissioners, who all appeared to support the resolution, he would be encouraging the North Carolina Sheriff's Association to endorse it as well.
The Gaston County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether it sends the resolution to the state legislature at the end of the month.