Thursday, December 27, 2012

Should names and addresses of gun owners be published?

One could easily make the same "my children's safety" argument that people use to justify the publication of the identity and location of pedophiles. Why wouldn't you want to know whether an alcoholic neighbor with an anger management problem has a gun permit and, likely, a firearm? Or whether your child is having a sleepover at a house in which assault rifles are likely to be kept? Or attending a graduation party / beer bust there?
     The Journal-News Media Group, owned by USA Today's parent company, Gannett, published a database of gun permit owners in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland, New York counties recently, eliciting much indignation from gun owners. But the story also aroused sentiment from people who don't own firearms, such as a neighbor of Richard V. Wilson, who, in May approached a female neighbor on the street and shot her in the back of the head. Said neighbor, reacting to the news that Wilson, a mentally disturbed 77-year-old man had amassed a cache of weapons, said this:
“Would I have bought this house knowing somebody (close by) had an arsenal of weapons? No, I would not have.”
Local authorities seem to have arbitrarily limited information provided the Journal-News:
...the state’s top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk’s offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.
In a followup piece the paper wrote:
Hundreds of callers have complained, claiming publication of the database put their safety at risk or violated their privacy. Others claimed publication was illegal. Many of the callers were vitriolic and some threatened members of the newspaper staff.
     “New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

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