It's been happening for years: Newspapers printing the personal information of handgun owners. But after several deadly shootings, including the deadly massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December, the practice is now grabbing people's attention. And the former sheriff of Kanawha County says it happens here too.
"We had a little bit of a dilemma on that to be quite honest," said Mike Rutherford, the former sheriff of Kanawha County. "it's been a lot of conflicting views and comments."
But he said attorneys gave the department the green light to release the information.
"We were advised it's considered public record," Rutherford said.
In fact, Rutherford said the Charleston newspapers request the lists from the department about once a month.
"We don't give out the addresses but we've been told it's public record," he said. "There is a fee to get that information because it is very extensive and it takes a while for us to get the information and print it or put it on disk."
But several newspapers go even further. Just days after the Sandy Hook school shooting in December, a newspaper in White Plains, N.Y., released the names and addresses of thousands of licensed gun owners.
They even published an interactive map showing where these people lived.
But Rutherford said he's never released the names of those rejected for permits.
"We never had that asked of us to be honest with you," he said. "It's something we'd have to look into."
In West Virginia, only some gun owners need to apply for a permit through the sheriff's department: anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon needs a permit to do so.
Rutherford said the department now receives 50-60 applications for permits every day.