The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is getting a lot of heat from those with concealed-carry permits angry over a searchable database of Tennesseans with the permits:
Gun owners say the database is an invasion of privacy and makes permit holders easy targets for burglaries. They have flooded the newspaper with complaints — some 600 e-mails daily, threatened staff and posted personal information about newspaper employees, including Google maps to some homes.
The Commercial Appeal added the database to its Web site in December, but it did not draw attention until an early February story about a parking spot argument that ended with a motorist shot dead.
About five years ago, The News-Sentinel did a story about local gun-permit holders and considered putting the searchable database online. Before taking that step, editors here decided to conduct a poll, which we did through the editorial page. We got more than 3,000 responses, an astonishing result, and the same kind of people protesting the Knoxville move made our results lopsided. "Don't put it online" won by about a 95-5 percent margin. For several reasons, including the poll results, we decided not to put the database online.
So who made the right call, the Knoxville paper or the Fort Wayne one? Were we being responsible in listening to the critics who said we'd be putting people in danger? Or were we being cowards and failing in our duty to publish public information?