Tuesday, December 19, 2006

New York Yellow Journalism

Yesterday, Bill (Yosemite Sam) posted about a South Dakota newspaper publishing the names of Concealed Carry license holders. Frequent commenter, Drew, sent us an e-mail before Bill posted. We read it yesterday afternoon and wanted to follow up on it.

Drew informs us that a newspaper in New York State did the same thing. In a later editorial, they claimed they removed the list from their site. I believe that open records are a good thing. The laws were written so that citizens could keep track of their governments and ensure those governments were acting lawfully and for the common good. However, that opens up big loopholes for people to mine government records for data that could harm citizens.

Publishing names of concealed weapon permittees is just one of those ways that open records could be abused to harm us. As someone said in the editorial, "As far as I'm concerned, I've done everything legally. I've been fingerprinted and everything's on record...But maybe because we can publish information, maybe it's not always a good idea."

These newspapers must exercise discretion. They don't publish the names of rape victims, but that can be a public record. They don't publish floor plans to their editors' houses and those can be a public record. They can and should exercise discretion, but of course too many journalists believe keeping and bearing arms is suspect if not out right hostile.

Both the article and the editorial mention one other thing that bothers me. They decry the fact that government is not grabbing the guns of deceased license holders. You see, in New York State a handgun owner must register his/her gun and be licensed. When they die, the gun is supposed to be turned over to the police. An heir can claim the gun if he or she has or gets a permit.

This is the danger to these licensing and registration schemes. They allow governments, police officials, journalists, and others to view guns not as private property, but as items that the state allows a person to use for awhile. You see this attitude when the press reports a gun was "recovered" from a felon in possession or found at a crime scene or turned into a gun buyback.

Guns are property and my heirs should be able to sell or use my guns as they see fit. They are not the society's or state's or the people's property. The newspaper in question laments that the government has no good way to track and then "secure" a deceased permittee's guns. Who the hell gave government the right to do that in the first place?

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