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Sheriff issues reassurance on gun carriers' privacy

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held said rarely a day has passed in the last month when he or one of the deputies has not been asked whether concealed firearm carry permit information is a public record.

The questions have become so numerous that on Wednesday Held issued a news release reiterating Pennsylvania state law, which requires such information to be kept confidential.

“Whether it's people stopping me outside the office, the numerous telephone calls we've received here or deputies being stopped and asked, I thought I'd get the information out there to assure people,” Held said.

The inquiries began after The Westchester Journal News on Dec. 22 published a map with the names and addresses of firearms owners from Westchester and Rockland counties in the wake of a mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead.

“I would like to make perfectly clear that neither myself nor anyone in my office will release this information,” Held said.

Held said his staff and he have received “dozens” of inquiries.

Held noted that Pennsylvania state law regarding firearm ownership mandates that such permit application information remain confidential.

Any local governmental agency or department that violates the law is liable for at least $1,000 per occurrence, or three times the actual damages that may have been incurred as a result of the violation, according to state code.

Held said he feels that releasing the information would violate the privacy of the citizens who are “simply obeying the law by applying to obtain a permit to carry concealed firearms.”

Releasing such information could assist “any criminals that might be looking to steal firearms,” Held said.

In 2012, the sheriff's office issued more than 12,500 permits, about 4,300 more than the year before.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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