Update, Wednesday, Feb. 27: Gwen Moritz apologizes here.
At the request of a number of licensees who were concerned that they might be targeted by criminals, Arkansas Business has voluntarily removed a link to the spreadsheet of concealed-carry licensees generated by the Arkansas State Police on Friday morning before the information was exempted from the state Freedom of Information Act. And as of Tuesday, Feb. 26, Moritz is no longer responding to requests for copies of the list.
This is an Opinion
I trust you’ll take the time to read this week’s features on 10 truly interesting women. I learned so much from writing one and editing the other nine. I think the Arkansas Business reporting staff did a great job of choosing “Women of Influence” whose spheres of influence are about as varied as can be imagined — from the mother of 19 children to the CEO of Sam’s Club.
(Actually, Michelle Duggar probably knows a lot about Sam’s Club. But I digress.)
As much as I enjoy this feature, and as deserving of attention as I think these women are, I have to confess that I wish that getting more women in the pages of Arkansas Business weren’t something that took a special effort. For years, in fact, I resisted the idea of singling out women to feature — or minorities, for that matter — because it smacked of manipulating the news.
Plus, I told myself that this problem would eventually solve itself because more and more women would enter the world of business and climb swiftly to those managerial and executive ranks that bring them to our attention. But in 2010, I finally conceded that it just wasn’t happening on its own.
Oh, certainly there are more women in executive roles than there were in 1984, when Arkansas Business launched, or in 1999, when I arrived. But the imbalance is still pretty obvious when I look at the names and faces in this publication week to week.
I’m not sure an occasional feature like Women of Influence will change much, but at least it can serve as a reminder that there are capable women doing important work for those businesses and organizations that give them the chance — or creating their own spheres of influence.
I can’t adequately express without wildly waving hand gestures how disappointed I am that the Arkansas General Assembly, in some kind of brain-paralyzing panic, has decided to amend the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act so that the public cannot know who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
As this publication pointed out in an editorial a couple of weeks back, knowing who is licensed is the only way to determine who is not licensed. Your crazy uncle shows up at a family reunion packing heat — is he really licensed? A neighbor has taken to walking the sidewalks with a sidearm — is he licensed? Your church decides to allow firearms on the premises — as should be the right of a private, voluntary organization — but is that guy in the next pew really licensed to carry?
According to our legislature, you don’t even have the right to wonder.
There is nothing — zip, zilch, nada — about this very bad idea that expands or otherwise protects the individual right to bear arms. No one new gets to legally own, carry or discharge firearms. The requirements for licensure aren’t changed at all by this decision to slice off a little piece of the public’s right to know.
What’s more, there wasn’t anything wrong with the old law. Since an amendment four years ago, the only information about concealed-carry licensees has been available to the public are the names and ZIP codes. This was a reasonable compromise reached after certain news organizations, locally and elsewhere in the country, decided to publish extensive information about licensees, including their home addresses. I understood the concerns about that — Arkansas Business generally doesn’t even list the exact street addresses of houses that are sold.
Gov. Beebe has declined to sign the bill, but he also declined to veto it. I understand that a veto — in this case and in most others in Arkansas — would only have been a gesture. It’s as easy to override a veto as to pass a bill in the first place, and this wasn’t even close. But sometimes a gesture is worth making, and I think the public’s right to know is an issue worth standing up for — even if it means being on the losing side. As I clearly am.
Meanwhile, I have obtained a list of the concealed-carry licensees from the Arkansas State Police while it was still my right to keep and bear these names and ZIP codes, and I’m not afraid to use it. If you want a copy of the list, just email me at the address below. Your crazy uncle may be on it. Or maybe not.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.
A Note on Comments to This Column
We are more than happy to continue to take comments to this article. We ask that you continue to follow our comments policy. Also, the concealed carry list that is no longer available here contained only names and zip codes, not full addresses. Therefore, we will not allow comments containing Mortiz's home address on this website. However, we note that Gwen Moritz lives in the 72116 zip code.