Arizona Gun Laws Among Most Lenient In U.S.
Arizona's gun laws, among the most lenient in the country, allowed Jared Lee Loughner to conceal and carry his firearm without a permit, explains Washington Post reporter James Grimaldi, who wrote a piece Sunday about Arizona's lax gun laws and Saturday's Tuscon shooting rampage.
Other segments from the episode on January 10, 2011
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Arizona Gun Laws Among Most Lenient In U.S.
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
We had expected to feature our interview with Mira Bartok today, about
having a mother who was paranoid, schizophrenic, violent and for many
years homeless. We're going to postpone that interview until tomorrow
because we want to talk about Saturday's horrifying shootings in Tucson.
Jared Loughner, the man charged with the shooting, appears to be
mentally ill. His bizarre and disruptive behavior got him suspended from
community college. When he tried to enlist in the Army, he was rejected
after failing a drug test.
Yet, in Tucson, he was able to legally buy a semi-automatic weapon and
carry it without a permit. That made it possible for him to shoot
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, kill six people, including
federal Judge John Roll and a nine-year-old student council president,
and wound 19 others.
My guest, James Grimaldi, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative
reporter with the Washington Post. He's contributed to their series "The
Hidden Life of Guns." We talked with him about that series last week. We
invited him back today to talk about Arizona's lenient gun laws, which
he reported on yesterday in the Post.
James Grimaldi, welcome back to FRESH AIR. I'm sorry I have to talk to
you again under these circumstances.
Mr. JAMES GRIMALDI: (Journalist, Washington Post): Thanks for inviting
GROSS: So, Arizona is one of the states with the most lenient gun laws.
Would you describe those laws?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, essentially, there is very little obstacle to
purchasing a weapon in the state of Arizona. There are laws that require
you federally to be at least 21 years old to purchase a handgun. But
basically, state law permits anyone 21 or older to own a firearm and
also carry it concealed in the state.
And that's different than other states, many of which have more strict
GROSS: In 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill that repealed a state
law that required gun owners to have a permit to carry a concealed
weapon. So now to carry a concealed weapon, you no longer need a permit
in the state of Arizona.
Mr. GRIMALDI: Right, and in fact, that's a law in various forms the
previous governor, Janet Napolitano, had vetoed. It was obviously
somewhat contentious. But when Brewer came in, being a Republican and
being a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, she repealed that law.
GROSS: Do you know if Loughner's weapon is considered to have been a
Mr. GRIMALDI: No, I'm unaware of the exact location of the weapon. I
think most of the eyewitnesses didn't notice the weapon until he was
GROSS: If Loughner was carrying his weapon as a concealed weapon, what
does that mean in terms of if he could have been, you know, frisked by a
cop? Now, there weren't cops on the scene. There wasn't security on the
scene. But say there was, with the law being as it is now in Arizona,
would that have made him suspicious and given a policeman grounds to
frisk him or question him?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Right, well, the current law says you're permitted to
carry a weapon concealed in the state of Arizona. So a law enforcement
officer would probably have to find some other reason to stop him and
So because of that change in the law, he's unlikely to have been stopped
for having a concealed weapon.
GROSS: So now in Arizona, you can carry a concealed weapon without a
permit. Say it was 2009 in Arizona, and you needed a permit to carry a
concealed weapon. Would that have made a difference, possibly, in
Loughner's ability to be at that event with a concealed weapon?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, prior to the passage of the law, if a law
enforcement officer saw someone carrying a concealed weapon or, say, saw
a bulge under a jacket, that law enforcement officer could stop the
person, ask for a permit, ask if they were carrying a concealed weapon
and then, if they didn't have a permit for a concealed weapon, they
could search them.
Perhaps something might have stopped Loughner before getting there if
there had been some circumstance like that prior to the shooting.
GROSS: Now, you report that Loughner passed an instant background check
at Sportsman's Warehouse in Arizona, where he purchased his Glock. This
was on November 30th. What is an instant background check in the state
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, under the Brady Law, which was passed in 1994 and
named for Jim Brady, the press secretary for Ronald Reagan who was
injured in that assassination attempt, the Brady Law requires a national
instant check system.
Back in the '90s, that took several days, but over the years, they've
made it essentially a check that, depending on state to state, they make
a phone call to see if the person ends up being a prohibited buyer in
The main thing they look for are felony convictions because you can't be
a felon and purchase a firearm. Certainly, you can't purchase a handgun
under the federal law. You need to be also, for a handgun, 21 years old.
They also look for mental health records, and there's been some attempts
by many states to improve the reporting of those mental health records,
particularly in Virginia, for example, after the Virginia Tech shooting.
GROSS: So it seems pretty clear that Loughner is mentally ill. But he
passed the instant background check. Do you know what it takes to have
mental illness come up in a background check?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, I think it would certainly require, at the very
least, some sort of diagnosis of Mr. Loughner. I donât know that there's
an indication that he'd actually seen mental health professional who
would be able to report such information to the authorities.
And as it is now, many prohibited persons are not blocked from buying
guns because the records aren't in NICS, including about 80 to 90
percent of disqualifying mental health records, according to the Brady
Campaign, which is a gun control organization.
GROSS: In other words, you might have a mental health record, but if it
isn't in the instant background check database, it wonât come up, so
you'd still be able to buy the weapon.
Mr. GRIMALDI: That's correct.
GROSS: Now, it's been reported that Loughner tried to buy ammunition at
a Wal-Mart in Arizona, and because of his behavior, he was turned down.
But he went to another Wal-Mart, where he successful made the ammunition
purchase. Is there any discretion required of gun or ammo sellers?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, yes. There's - essentially, there's very little
limitations on ammunition and purchasing ammunition. But gun stores
exercise a lot of discretion. And as we talked about last week, they
often consider themselves the first line of defense in trying to prevent
what would be seen as an illegal purchase.
When you buy a weapon, for example, you have to fill out a Form 4473,
and on there, you have to say that you haven't been convicted or are not
an abuser of drugs or alcohol.
We know that Mr. Loughner had had apparently an arrest that was
dismissed regarding drug paraphernalia. There are some people who
believe that perhaps there should have been some reporting to the NICS
system about that kind of arrest.
But I know of gun dealers, and we've interviewed some gun dealers, who
say that they simply will refuse a sale if they believe the person is
lying on that form.
GROSS: Now, the Glock firearm that he did purchase, it's considered a
Mr. GRIMALDI: That's right.
GROSS: And my understanding is that gun would have been outlawed, you
wouldn't have been able to manufacture it or sell it if the automatic
weapon bill that was - that expired in 2004 was still in effect. This
was a bill that was passed during the Clinton administration.
Mr. GRIMALDI: I'm not an expert about what would fall into or not fall
into the assault weapons ban. I do know that many organizations,
especially pro-gun groups, say part of the problem with that law is, how
do you define an assault weapon? How do you define what falls into that
We talked last week about this bill that would prohibit multiple
purchases of assault weapons along the border in relation to the Mexico
gun trade. And they've come up with a definition for that that seems
But I can tell you, definitions of what does and does not fall under the
assault weapon ban is highly controversial. And many gun advocates
essentially mocked that law from the '90s, saying that it was easily
GROSS: One of the things that makes Arizona gun laws so relatively
lenient is that Arizona allows guns in places that many states do not.
What are some examples?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, guns are permitted almost everywhere in the state
except a business or doctor's office. The state rifle association even
lists on its website restaurants that permit concealed weapons. Guns are
permissible inside the state capitol and many other public buildings.
We know, under the Supreme Court's recent rulings that states are
permitted to ban weapons in schools, churches, public buildings, but
Arizona, and it's my understanding Texas, as well, allows them on the
And I think a lot of this has to do with Arizona's stand on gun
ownership, which is rooted in the constitution of the state.
GROSS: So in Arizona, it's legal to carry a concealed weapon without a
permit. What about a non-concealed weapon?
Mr. GRIMALDI: That's fine. In fact, you probably could see people with
holsters. I think if it's out in the open, it's not considered concealed
and they could carry it. But that also might prompt a law enforcement
officer to ask about it. Regardless, it's legal.
GROSS: What would they have the right to ask?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, maybe they wouldn't have a right to stop them.
That's a good question. I mean, I don't think it's uncommon to find
people carrying weapons unconcealed in the state of Arizona. It's not
like every restaurant that you go to, but there certainly are groups who
like to - who like to promote this. They think it's a good thing.
GROSS: After the Virginia Tech shootings, there was a bill that was
introduced to allow students and teachers to carry guns into the school.
I assume that means college because you have to be 18 to own a gun. So
am I right in saying that would be college as opposed to high school?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Right, or junior college, I suppose.
GROSS: So what's the status on that proposal?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, I think it's still pending. A former state senator,
Pamela Goreman(ph) told us, she was a sponsor of the bill, that the
people who would - you would be trying to control from bringing in those
guns would probably not pay attention to the law. And if they're
thinking about killing someone, the fact that the gun isn't registered
or is not permitted on those grounds wouldn't stop them.
So the feeling is, why shouldn't law-abiding citizens have them to
defend themselves against people like that?
GROSS: My guest is Washington Post investigative reporter James
Grimaldi. He contributed to the Post series "The Hidden Life of Guns."
Yesterday, he reported on Arizona's lenient gun laws. We'll talk more
after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
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GROSS: My guest is Washington Post reporter James Grimaldi. Yesterday,
he reported on Arizona's lenient gun laws that made it possible for
Jared Loughner to legally buy a semi-automatic pistol with just an
instant background check and carry it without a permit. Grimaldi
contributed to the Post series "The Hidden Life of Guns."
Now, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, she owned a gun. She was a
supporter of Second Amendment rights. When the Supreme Court struck down
Washington, D.C.'s ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional, she
released a statement saying: As a gun owner, I am a strong supporter of
the Second Amendment.
Yet at the same time, the NRA spent money trying to defeat her and gave
her a D rating. So what was that based on? I mean, she supported the
rights of gun owners.
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, I spent a lot of time looking at the NRA ratings,
and unfortunately, they're not as transparent as I would like them to
be. There are probably a couple of reasons.
One, if she supported any limitation on guns whatsoever, that's likely
to bump her down at least a grade, and after at least a couple of those,
they could be bumping her down precipitously.
Also, last year, you'll recall, in the last Congress, there was a
campaign finance bill that the National Rifle Association opposed, and
there were some votes to exempt them from being covered by the new
campaign finance law. And I don't know that that bill was rated, but I
have a hunch that maybe that's one of the reasons she got knocked down
to a D.
Plus, the NRA thought they had found a, I guess, a stronger candidate
and a stronger supporter of gun rights in Marine Sergeant Jesse Kelly,
age 29, so much so that they spent about $40,000 in the race to defeat
Giffords and to support Kelly.
GROSS: It's interesting that I think both sides of the gun control issue
are using Saturday's shootings to justify the positions. Gun control
advocates are saying we need stricter laws, but on the other hand, for
instance, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, he's a Republican, and
Heath Shuler of North Carolina, who's a Democrat, told Politico that
they'll be carrying their guns in their home districts for protection,
and they have conceal-and-carry permits.
Mr. GRIMALDI: It doesn't surprise me, actually, because the gun issue is
so, so divisive in this country. And we've talked to both sides of the
issue and both sides are going to see this incident from their own point
Gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment and supporters of, you
know, everyone having guns or at least legal people having guns, feel
like, well, maybe if they had - they might have been able to stop it
sooner than they had.
And then supporters of reasonable limits on gun ownership and limits on
the use of guns feel like some of those laws might have prevented him
from either buying or carrying the weapon to that scene.
And I don't think even a show like this could ever resolve that
GROSS: Is there any gun legislation before Congress now?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, the Congress is so new, I donât know if any bills
have been introduced. But I do know we're expected to see the re-
introduction of the ATF Modernization Act, and that's regarding the
federal agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,
and there's an attempt by supporters of the NRA, and it's an NRA-backed
bill, that would make it harder to close a gun store.
The NRA and the gun store owners believe they often get shut down for
paperwork violations. Many in the ATF, and I think the ATF formally
opposes parts of this rule because it would make it so much more
difficult for the ATF to close down a store that might be a bad actor or
a rogue dealer.
GROSS: I know the story that you're researching now for publication
tomorrow in the Washington Post has to do with how restrictions apply to
people who are mentally ill and trying to purchase a gun. Do you see
that as one of the really important questions emerging from the
shootings on Saturday?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Well, yeah, I think so. I think people - I think everyone
would agree this man should not have had a gun. And there's a question
about whether the National Instant Check System was thorough enough to
Was there something that should have been in there? Should he have come
up because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness? Should there
have been some restriction because he had an arrest for drug
paraphernalia, even though it was dismissed? Was there some other thing
that could have been in the system?
I know after Virginia Tech, the state of Virginia tried to tighten the
reporting requirements for mental illness because, clearly, the man
involved in that incident was mentally ill. And the question probably is
out there today, you know, should there be more restrictions in this
NICS database, as it's called?
But I think you'll also see some resistance from some people because
there are even questions about veterans, some veterans may have had a
mental illness, it may be okay now and believe that they ought to be
permitted to carry a weapon.
And there is a little bit of pushback, maybe even a lot of pushback,
from the Second Amendment folks who believe that some people may end up
in that database who shouldn't be in the database.
GROSS: You and I recently spoke about your investigation into how guns
sold in the United States end up in the hands of the Mexican drug
cartels. It's relatively easy to buy a gun in Arizona. Are there a lot
of guns from Arizona that are ending up in Mexico?
Mr. GRIMALDI: Yes. Arizona's the second-most-frequent state to have guns
from Mexican crime scenes traced back to the United States, and one of
the top 12 gun stores in the country is in Arizona. It's called Lone
And the ATF is keeping an eye on that. They've busted up a number of
gun-smuggling schemes out of the state of Arizona in the past several
years. These are schemes that purchase, they purchase guns that go
straight down into Mexico.
And in fact, one of their only prosecutions of a case, of a dealer that
was involved, they believe knowingly, in gun-running to Mexico was
prosecuted in Phoenix. In that case, the store owner was basically
acquitted when the judge dismissed the case before it was finished being
GROSS: Why did he dismiss the case?
Mr. GRIMALDI: The judge felt that the ATF had not produced enough
evidence to prove the case, and they felt that they had not been able to
trace the guns directly down into Mexico, back to the store and that the
sale that the gun store was making was essentially a misdemeanor case,
and he dismissed it.
GROSS: Well, James Grimaldi, I want to thank you very much for talking
Mr. GRIMALDI: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
GROSS: James Grimaldi is an investigative reporter with the Washington
Post. He contributed to their series "The Hidden Life of Guns" and
yesterday, wrote about Arizona's lenient gun laws. I'm Terry Gross, and
this is FRESH AIR.
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After Death, Protecting Your 'Digital Afterlife'
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
Chances are that you have hundreds, maybe thousands of emails stored on
your remote servers, or in your computer. You might have a Facebook page
or a MySpace or Twitter account. And you might have countless photos in
a Flickr album. All that stuff amounts to a digital profile, of sorts,
which raises an interesting question: What happens to that material when
we die? Do our families get access to our email, precious photos or
financial data? Are there some things that we prefer that nobody see?
Our next guests, Evan Carroll and John Romano, are two technology
experts who focused for the past couple of years on this very issue.
They've founded an online resource called thedigitalbeyond.com, and
they've written a new book with practical advice called "Your Digital
They spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.
DAVE DAVIES: Well, John Romano and Evan Carroll, welcome to FRESH AIR.
Our digital assets, or our identity or whatever we want to call it,
exists partly in computers that we own in our homes, but much of it
exists in servers elsewhere, right? I mean, email services, Facebook,
MySpace. Do these online service providers have a procedure for handling
the death of a subscriber?
Mr. JOHN ROMANO (Co-author, "Your Digital Afterlife"): Some of these
services do have particular procedures. Some of you may have Twitter
accounts and, upon request, with the appropriate documentation, Twitter
will share an archive of your public tweets with a next of kin, and then
disable your account if they so choose.
But some service providers take a more harsh stance and say that in
order to protect the privacy of the deceased, that they won't provide
access to anyone, no matter what kind of documentation they may have.
If I may go into a story here, in 2004, a U.S. Marine, Justin Ellsworth
was killed in action, and he left behind a Yahoo email account. And his
father, John Ellsworth, wanted to make a scrapbook of the many
supportive emails that his son had received during his time in service.
Unfortunately, Yahoo's terms of service actually prevented him from
gaining access to that information. So later, he actually filed in court
to have an order placed through Yahoo to provide that information, and
he was actually successful. But in Yahoo's terms of service, it does say
that your accounts are nontransferable and have no right of
Mr. EVAN CARROLL (Co-author, "Your Digital Afterlife"): To further that,
there's also no standardization right now, and this is kind of against
the interest of all the users out there. There's no one way that all
these service providers act. So Yahoo has their policy. Facebook has
their policy. Twitter has another policy, and none of the policies are
the same, which makes a really confusing for the average person to try
to figure all this out.
DAVIES: So in the book, you give us some instructions. And you say that
one thing we should do is to name a digital executor, roughly akin to
the executor of our will. Is a digital executor, I mean, is that a power
that's recognized in law? How do you do that?
Mr. RAMONO: So, a digital executor, unless you name them as a sort of a
co-executor of your state, they don't necessarily have full legal
authority. But the reason we use this terminology is because it's very
possible that the person who is handling your estate - say, for
instance, it's a spouse - may not be the person who has the technical
understanding to take care of your digital things. And we think there's
a - needs to be an important distinction there.
Oklahoma passed a law which gives the executor of an estate legal
authority to access digital accounts belonging to the decedent, and this
- but we're still waiting on some of our contacts in the legal
profession to provide us with some clarification of this, but this could
provide some new groundwork for legal recognition of this role.
DAVIES: So if I'm hearing you right, that would mean the executor of
your estate is, in effect, also the digital executor?
Mr. RAMONO: In the way we talk about it, yes, that would be so. But I
could see situations where you may want to provide in your wishes that
you tell your executor you have the legal authority to do this, but I
would like for you to make sure that this individual does these other
things for me, because they may be more suited for that task.
DAVIES: Right. Now, you suggest that we take an inventory of our data
and then provide some specific instructions on what the digital executor
should do with that data in the event that we die. Give us an example of
what would be in this inventory and some of the kinds of options in
terms of instructions.
Mr. CARROLL: I think when someone starts their inventory, one of the
things you need to remember is that it doesn't have to be absolutely 100
percent exhaustive. I think what's most - what people need to
concentrate on is the most important things in their life. Online, if
you're using Flickr, let's say, to hold all your photographs and all
those photographs are very important to you, make sure that that is
going to be part of your inventory.
I think people might get lost or bogged down or realize, oh, my
goodness. If I have to put every single online account, I'll be here
till tomorrow writing them all down. But you can start simply by just
taking the most important things to you - the things that you wouldn't
want lost or you - things that you wouldn't want to be forgotten or
disregarded, and put them in your inventory first.
But your inventory, really, is just a list. It's a simple list that has,
you know, the name of the object - this is my Flickr account - and it
has ways to access that account. So it has your username and your
password, and it has your wishes for it: What do you want to happen to
that asset after you're gone? So if it's your Flickr account and you
want to say, hey, I'd like this account to be given to my child or, you
know, my loved one, then specific that in your wishes.
Mr. RAMONO: But you should be careful, because Flickr is, indeed, owned
by Yahoo, and the contents of your Yahoo account is quote,
"nontransferable." So you may want to take steps to download the content
of that account and make sure that you can legally pass that content to
your son, for instance.
Mr. CARROLL: Right. I mean, strangely enough, it's - the - actually
passing on to somebody potentially could be a breach of your terms of
service, in of itself, just trying to give somebody else that password.
So they might have legal rights to delete it just by you doing that. It
gets a little bit tricky. But at this point, providing that access is so
much better than the risk of not providing that access at all and having
that potentially go away altogether.
DAVIES: Right. Well, now, this raises an interesting situation, here. I
mean, suppose what's at issue is data - like photos - that are on an
account that is nontransferable. If you instruct your surviving spouse
or child to, in effect, violate the terms of service and download the
stuff so they have access to it, is that something you'd recommend?
Mr. RAMONO: You know, I never want to recommend that someone violates a
contract that they have executed, and I will say that I'm not an
attorney, so - nor can I provide that advice. However, it's worth saying
that as it stands right now, this is the only means by which you can
provide access to those accounts.
Now, with the Flickr example, it's worth saying that many Flickr
photographs are sort of public information in that they can - you know,
any Flickr user can go view them, and for those accounts, it might be
easy to download those. But you do have - there are cases where some
Flickr photos are private, and those may be the ones you want to share.
The lawyers we've worked with in reviewing our book have recommended
that they feel accessing this information with your permission is, as
far as legal structures go, akin to having an executor on execute on
your wishes. So they believe it's sort of in the spirit of the law by
doing that. So it's definitely something worth considering, but at this
stage, that's probably your best option.
Mr. CARROLL: This unfortunately exposes a little bit of a deeper issue,
as well. I mean, the issue is that there's no standardization across the
industry, and there's no consistent means for people to handle this
issue. So in the vacuum of a way that consumers can understand,
consumers are going to try to figure out a way to solve their problem,
which is they want their stuff to be passed to their children or
somebody, and they're going to figure out a way to do that.
DAVIES: So you would recommend, again, if one develops a kind of a
digital inventory of their stuff that they want to leave some
instructions about, you'd want to include the email accounts and Flickr
accounts where there might be photos and other things. I assume that
this inventory would also include usernames and passwords, right?
Mr. RAMONO: That's correct. And it's important to consider that once
you've created this inventory, that you should really consider how
you're going to secure that inventory, because the purpose of having a
password in the first place is to keep things private. And if your
inventory is too accessible - perhaps to people you don't want it to be
accessible to - that can compromise the security of your accounts.
DAVIES: Right. And you certainly don't want to put them in your actual
Mr. RAMONO: Oh, certainly not. Because a will, in effect, becomes public
record. And if, say, for instance, there's - your password's in the
will, and no one has changed that password since it was put there, then
your password is suddenly exposed to a greater audience.
And there are some interesting services that allow you to store your
usernames and passwords in a secure service, like a secure server, and
then you can include instructions in your will to go activate that
service and release those passwords.
Like one particular service, I think it works out of Switzerland, and
they have an online data safeguard(ph). They're actually called
DataInherit. And they actually included 64-character code that you can
place in with your will and your other documents, that you go to their
website, you put in that 64-character code, and then it sends your
passwords to the individual that you have authorized previously.
DAVIES: We're talking with Evan Carroll and John Romano.
We'll talk more after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
DAVIES: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with Evan Carroll and
John Romano, authors of the new book "Your Digital Afterlife: When
Facebook, Flickr and Twitter are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy?"
There are a number of companies that offer digital inheritance services.
What do they do? What are some of the services that they offer?
Mr. RAMONO: Dave, there's a basic model for these services, that they
provide what we call storage, and that's a place to store your usernames
and passwords, sort of an inventory of your accounts, like we talked
about earlier. And then they often provide some sort of trigger
mechanism. And this is how they verify that you've passed away or
become incapacitated and know to take action and deliver them to the
individuals whom you specify, the recipients, the heirs that you want to
have access to those accounts.
There's a lot - there are a lot of different trigger options for these
accounts. For instance, some services - I'll name a few like Legacy
Locker or Entrustit - actually require that your survivors provide a
death certificate to their office so they can then verify and then open
your account. Others require a secure pass code be entered that you
might keep with your will. And others that are perhaps a bit less secure
rely upon a group of verifiers, or say you might specify 10 people. And
when seven of them say yes, you know, John has passed away, they'll go
ahead and release that information.
Mr. CARROLL: I think one of the things that you need to be thinking
about also is this is a lot of work to do to set up, and some of these
services actually try to provide you some value during your life, not
just try to make it easier for your heirs.
There's a service called DataInherit that actually has a way of securing
and recalling your own passwords throughout your own life. So every time
you create a new account, you put the user name and password in there
real fast. And then in the event that your computer burns down or, you
know, your list gets lost or something happens, you have the ability to
recall all those usernames and passwords so you don't have to go back
and struggle with it yourself.
DAVIES: You also write about a company - I think it's called
DigitalEstateServices.com - that will get you into locked computers of
your loved ones who may have passed away and uncover, you know, user
names and passwords.
Mr. RAMONO: Yes, Dave. So Digital Estate Services was a company that we
actually located very late during the process of writing the book, sort
of towards the end, and we added it in because they were taking a
different view. So if you have someone who's passed away and you can -
you might want to contact them afterwards and ask for their services to
help you gain access. And they can do things like look for saved
passwords in computers and different steps like that to try and get into
It is worth saying that you should respect that perhaps it wasn't a
matter of failed planning on the part of the deceased, but perhaps they
wanted to keep some things private. And in those situations where you
are sort of retroactively trying to gain access to these things, I would
recommend, out of respect for the deceased, that you are very careful in
what you choose to do.
DAVIES: Like a digital locksmith, right?
Mr. CARROLL: Right.
Mr. RAMONO: Digital locksmith, that's a great title for it.
DAVIES: There are also services that will deliver a posthumous online
message to folks? How does that work?
Mr. CARROLL: There's a whole class of services we call posthumous email
that that will actually allow you, to before you die, go in and craft
emails to your loved ones or to anybody you really want, and they would
be sent out after this sort of trigger mechanism goes off and be sent
out to all the people in your distribution list or whoever you want to
get them. This would effectively allow you to, you know, either get the
last word in on somebody or tell people how much you love them.
I think there's so much grief at the end of the process, and people
start blaming themselves and there's a lot of guilt. And I think
posthumous letters are a nice way to say, you know, don't worry about
the last thing you said to me. You know, you've provided me a lot of joy
in my life, or whatever it is. And I think if these posthumous email
services have a really interesting way to do that. And a lot of them are
now allowing you to attach video and audio clips to it so you can
actually get a video from these people once they're gone.
DAVIES: And I guess there are sometimes that you would just as soon see
an account deleted. And I noticed that one company has a feature called
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. RAMONO: That's right. Obviously, there are accounts that people
create during their life that they donât want handed down to their
children or their spouse and they want to be permanently gone. And
there's a company called Entrustit, and theyâve actually, as part of
their service, you can set up certain accounts that will automatically
get deleted once you've passed away.
DAVIES: You know, weâve been talking a lot about pictures, emails and
other kinds of content. You know, more and more people have financial
information that they have online access to and there are usernames and
passwords that could really be valuable. Do you include that kind of
information in your digital inventory and your instructions as well?
Mr. CARROLL: So it's our recommendation that you, of course, realize
that anything that has sort of a financial matter should be executed
according to your legal will, as we like to call it, that provide a
differentiation between your digital estate planning.
That said, there are a lot of accounts that allow you to both spend
money and make money online that only exist online. And I would
recommend that you take steps to - and store those passwords so that
your executor has access to them. Let's say for instance, you might run
an online business and need to provide your business partner or even
your spouse, who might technically inherit that business, with that
Or accounts like PayPal are really interesting because many of us have
our PayPal accounts linked to our checking accounts and it's very easy
to transfer money out of those accounts. So it's worth, as we like to
say, looking at it systematically, and thinking about, well, so-and-so
has access to this, then they might also have access to this, and really
thinking about worst-case scenario of what could happen and sort of
safeguarding yourself against that.
Mr. RAMONO: There's also a lot of practical matters that we really need
to think about, such as online bill paying and mortgage payment. I mean,
if you have one person in your family that's doing all the paying bills,
which I know a lot of families do, if that person passes away, the
person left could be sitting there going, how do I pay my mortgage? How
do I keep my lights on? So all those things are really important to pass
Another sort of related issue to what Evan said with PayPal is, again,
you have to remember that that email that you have is a key to all of
these financial accounts often as well. So potentially, an heir or maybe
even a person that you didn't want to be part of your estate, if they
can get access to your email, they can reset your PayPal password, then
that could basically give somebody unauthorized access to your checking
account. So again, there are a lot of sort of interconnected issues that
we kind of have to think about as we move forward.
DAVIES: You know, as I read the book, I became convinced that there's
value to taking digital inheritance seriously. But I also realize that
just, I'm not going to do a lot of this stuff, just, you know, kind of
day-to-day, I'm just never going to get to a lot of it. What are the
simple things that somebody can do that are important? I mean, if one
were to sort of break it down to the most minimal effort, what would you
Mr. CARROLL: I think I would immediately just say figure out who you'd
want to have your data or figure out who you would want to have access
to that and just have a conversation with them. I mean, a five-minute
conversation. Say, listen, just so you know, I put my passwords here and
this is how I store them and I've got a Flickr account and a, you know,
a Vimeo account that I really care about, just make sure you take care
of those. I mean, that's a two-minute conversation that you can have
with someone that can make them aware of what to do after you're gone.
DAVIES: Evan Carroll, John Romano, thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. RAMONO: Thank you very much.
Mr. CARROLL: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
GROSS: Evan Carroll and John Romano spoke with FRESH AIR contributor
Dave Davies. Carroll and Romano have written a new book called "Your
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William Trevor: A Short-Story Master's Life Work
TERRY GROSS, host:
William Trevor has been writing for over 50 years and during that time,
he's won more literary awards than we have time to list here. Trevor has
published 14 novels, but he's even more celebrated for his short
fiction. Book critic Maureen Corrigan has a review of his latest
collection of stories.
MAUREEN CORRIGAN: At the risk of sounding like an old geezer -
prematurely, I might add - I think that the idea of curling up on a
large piece of upholstered furniture with my fur ball of a dog nestled
beside me and a good story to read sounds like the ideal winter
If you're the seriously dormant type, too, I've got a book to recommend
that packs so many good stories into one volume that, if the demands of
everyday life permit, you could stay safely socked away in your reading
burrow till the first thaw. The book is the recently published second
volume of William Trevor's collected stories - the writer anointed by
The New Yorker as the greatest living writer of short stories in the
English language and anointed by me as the hibernating bookworm's best
Trevor is a master of capturing those small shifts in consciousness that
shatter someone's world. Because he's an Irishman living in exile,
Trevor has lived most of his long life in England, and because so many
of those aforementioned epiphanies take place oh-so-discreetly, the
comparisons to James Joyce have been inevitable.
But as the 48 recent stories in this volume attest, Trevor has a more
developed taste for the macabre than Joyce ever did. It creeps up on a
reader slowly - the awareness that so many of these tales are about
being trapped, buried alive, thwarted at every turn of life's labyrinth.
And, yet, the signature response of Trevor's characters to their
bricked-in situation is a fatalistic shrug garnished with black Irish
The lead-off tale here is called "The Piano Tuner's Wives," and the tidy
first paragraph supplies the plot in miniature. Violet married the piano
tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old. Belle,
the 59-year-old second wife, was once the town beauty, smart in her
clothes, who, decades before, was cast over by the piano tuner for her
rival, Violet. Now Violet is in her grave and Belle is in the marriage
bed, and yet, Violet still haunts their lives.
Because the piano tuner is blind, heâd relied for decades on his first
wife to be his eyes, so Belle literally hears her dead predecessor
speaking through her husband's descriptions of the physical world. In
the brilliant climax of the tale, Belle vindictively decides that if she
can't banish her predecessor, she'll just banish the world Violet once
"The Piano Tuner's Wives," like most of Trevor's stories, takes place in
an Ireland that seems out of time. Most of Trevor's characters would
have been right at home in the Ireland of the Celtic Twilight, rather
than the twilight of the Celtic Tiger.
In "The Hill Bachelors," for instance, a young man named Paulie leaves
his job in England to attend his father's funeral in rural Ireland.
Silently, Paulie's four adult siblings conspire to appoint him the
sacrificial lamb who'll stay on to help his aged mother run the isolated
farm. The farming life Paulie passively agrees to could have been led by
a character out of John Ford's 1950s classic about 1930s Ireland, "The
In a spectacularly affecting story called "After Rain," a young
Irishwoman named Harriet returns to an out-of-the-way Italian hotel that
she'd stayed in as a child with her parents. Harriet is disappointed
that the hotel is now overrun with tourists from the new Europe. She'd
hoped to find refuge in the familiar, especially since a long-term
romance has just fallen apart. In this turning-point moment, which
displays Trevor's eloquent precision, Harriet comes to realize the
tragic trap of trying to recapture the past.
This love affair had once, like the other affairs before it, felt like
the exorcism of the disappointment that so drearily colored her life
when her parents went their separate ways. Both parents said the
separation was a happier outcome than staying together for the sake of
the family. Her brother shrugged the disappointment off, but for Harriet
it did not begin to go away until the first of her love affairs. And
always, when a love affair ended, there had been no exorcism after all.
Trevor's outcasts never make obvious bids for our sympathy, but they
elicit it nonetheless. The stories collected here also compose a quietly
devastating argument for the beauty and power of the short story form as
a tool for cutting to the quick of human desire and vulnerability.
GROSS: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University. She
reviewed William Trevor's latest collection of short fiction called
"Selected Stories." You can download podcasts of our show on our
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.