Sutter County, CA – The San Francisco Chronicle’s editor-in-chief has accused Sutter County Sheriff Brandon Barnes of “unnecessarily raising alarm,” after the sheriff notified concealed weapons permit holders in his county that the paper requested information about them.
Last Monday, Sheriff Barnes issued a letter to Sutter County concealed weapons permit holders explaining that the San Francisco Chronicle had filed a Public Records Act Request to get information contained on their permit applications and the permits themselves.
“The Office of County Council reviewed the request and has advised me of my legal obligations pursuant to California law,” Sheriff Barnes wrote. “I personally declined to provide much of the information requested; however, I am required to provide…permit number, name of permit holder, date of issue and date of expiration.”
Sheriff Barnes noted that the San Francisco Chronicle provided no reason for why they wanted the information, nor did they explain what they plan to do with it.
“In the event I receive a request for further information, I will notify you as soon as possible,” the sheriff told the county’s concealed weapons permit holders. “As always, I am committed to protecting the rights of our citizens, and those rights afforded to us by our Second Amendment.”
San Francisco Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Audrey Cooper has since alleged that the reporter who filed the public information request is being threatened, KOVR reported.
“I am deeply disturbed by how some sheriffs have handled a routine request for public information from a respected and established news outlet,” Cooper declared in a statement to KOVR. “As a result, they have put our journalists in personal danger for their own political gain.”
“It is a journalist’s job to investigate trends, and we do not intend on publishing personal information of private citizens,” she continued. “Unfortunately, the sheriffs sought to play up distrust in media when it became clear that they cannot deny access to public information.”
Cooper further alleged that Sheriff Barnes’ decision to notify gun owners about the paper’s records request was unnecessary.
“The sheriff’s tactics’ to unnecessarily raise [the] alarm of law-abiding gun owners will not discourage us from seeking this public information,” Cooper told KOVR, adding that she plans to refile the request in her own name to take the heat off of her reporter.
Sheriff Barnes said he has never mentioned the reporter’s name, and he made no apologies for having quickly alerted permit holders about the request.
“I have never named anyone other than the San Francisco Chronicle, and so I’m not sure how that could be placed back on me personally,” he told KOVR.
He also denied Cooper’s allegation that he had posted the letter to social media for political gain, and pointed out that he isn’t even up for re-election anytime soon.
“No, not at all,” Sheriff Barnes said of the accusation. “I’m a newly-elected sheriff. I’m in my first year in office.”
Cooper said the paper does not intend to release permit holders’ names or private information, so the motive behind the request remains unclear.