Carolina Journal’s Dan Way has been keeping us abreast of the repeal of the Durham gun registry by this session’s legislature. That’s the good news. The bad news? The documents still exist in Durham, and officials are pointing the finger at each other about what to do with them. The story begins with Archie Smith, Durham County’s Clerk of Court for Superior Court.
Smith has been unable to transfer custody of the files to Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews, and said Valone’s call for destroying the tens of thousands of documents would not be a straightforward process.
“They’re not something that belongs to the state,” he said, because the registry was created as the result of a “local bill” in the General Assembly applying only to Durham County.
The records are “not mine to get rid of. They don’t belong to me as an individual or me as the clerk. I’ve got no authority to do anything with them. The statute simply said that the requirement to keep them was no longer there,” Smith said.
“If I were to take and spray some Kingsford charcoal lighter fluid to them and light a match, the next thing you know, here would come somebody from the county saying those were county records, you weren’t supposed to do that,” he added.
Durham County spokeswoman Dawn Dudley said neither the county manager nor county commissioners had a position on the repeal legislation or what to do with the controversial records. She said that was a matter for Smith and Sheriff Mike Andrews to decide.
“The county commissioners … didn’t ask for this 80 years ago, they didn’t ask for it now. They would love for it to just disappear, too,” said state Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, who sponsored the repeal bill.
Woodard said there could be some historical value to keeping a handful of some records in the gun registry.
“Just pick some from early eras, determine that the registrant is deceased, and let’s put them on file so that historians could look at them, and take the rest out by the boxload and put them in an incinerator,” Woodard said.
No surprise that this situation isn’t sitting well with Paul Valone of Grass Roots North Carolina.
Valone dismisses the notion that information on the gun registrations is unique. He said such data is readily available from other venues, including the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
“It’s bureaucrats justifying trying to retain data they’re no longer supposed to have, trying to retain some of the power the state is no longer allowed to have, and it’s unsurprising. It never ceases to amaze me the extent to which they will go to try to justify this stuff,” Valone said.
Don’t be surprised if it takes an act of the legislature to begin the process of destroying these records.