Monday, December 18, 2006

NY Newspaper Publishes Names of Gun Owners

The Lower Hudson News is ecstatic about the attention being given to its recent articles shouting that "Out-of-date Records Mar Ability to Track Pistol Owners" (Dec 10) and the follow-up article "Handgun Owners Irate over Having Names Published Online" (Dec 17).

Happily, the details of the article which actually cites these names doesn't seem to be available online anymore. Apparently, Public Outrage is still a viable tool against journalistic lack of integrity. Either that, or they have been threatened with lawsuits, which affects the bottom-line of their budget and to which they WILL listen. Eventually. After the initial fervor dies down.

The later, December 17 article states:

Dozens of readers have taken issue with The Journal News over its decision to run a list of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties as part of a wider investigative article.

The names of more than 30,000 licensed handgun owners were posted online as part of "Falling Through the Cracks," the paper's Dec. 10 report that found that thousands of registered handguns were unaccounted for because there is no system to secure the weapons of permit holders who die.

The local rag is disappointed because there is no automatic provision for confiscation. Get over yourself, fellows.

Reader comments are limited so far (you can go here to read current comments, or to comment if you wish), but the first person who chooses to speak her mind seems to be in favor of disclosure. Why? She says, under the heading Print Permit Holders:

It is my opinion, since it is required for some people convicted of a sex crime to register their residences, and they are printed in the local paper, that addresses of people who register for a permit to carry a handgun should be printed as well. Also, whether the permit was granted or denied, and if denied under what conditions, should be associated with the information.

I feel that citizens have the right to know who among us are permitted to be armed although the unpermitted will probably be of more concern in the long run.

I realize that there are thousands of guns in Nebraska (I only have one) that are used safely, legally and without incident — most of which, I would imagine, are used for sport. Those don’t concern me. The ones that are specifically designed and sold as personal protection, and those who purchase them, are the danger.

It is my opinion that everyone else who doesn’t want a permit to carry a handgun should have the right to know who does.

I will be much more concerned in the coming year about permitted handgun carriers than I ever have been of sex offenders harming me or any of my family.
First, the phrase "... who among us are permitted to be armed ..." is disingenuous or an expression of ignorance. The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States permits us all to be armed. Subsequent interpretations have rightly discriminated against firearms possession by the insane and convicted felons, and with less justification have mandated that juveniles are not permitted these rights. The argument is that of 'diminished capacity', although I know a number of juveniles who are much better qualified to possess firearms than some adults. But that's a quible. Essentially, if you know who is insane or felonious in your neighborhood, you know who is NOT "permitted to be armed". Unfortunately, this remains a question which has not been satisfactory addressed by the High Courts.

The point, Dear Reader, is that of concealed carry of firearms; not of simple possession.

Personally, I find it upsetting that this writer is unable to distinguish between sexual predators ... who have been convicted of a heinous crime ... and honest people who have been investigated (as a condition of approval of their application) and proven to have never been convicted of a societal offense more serious than driving too fast to get to the office in the morning.

Apparently, her thesis is that people who own a gun AND CHOOSE TO CARRY IT are of dubious character. She seems to find that this demographic is more risky than those who would diddle small boys. She mentions that she herself owns a gun ("I only have one"), but apparently there is something about the mindset of people who have more than one, or who consider themselves at risk and carry for personal protection, which defines them as a danger to society.

Perhaps she is less concerned about sexual predators because, speaking of their weapon (presumably a penis), they "only have one". Or perhaps she doesn't have a child, in which case she feels less at risk.

If she had a child, would she feel more threatened by sexual predators? What experiential criteria would cause her to rethink her position? Enquiring people want to know.

The authors of the article, the reporters who spent a lazy Wednesday afternoon researching the names of CCH permit holders, seem to have a similar attitude. They're less interested in people who, by their criminal predilictions and demonstrated life-style, are inclined to illegally carry guns (usually illegally acquired) for the purpose of preying on honest citizens, than they are about the honest citizens who purchase (legally) guns to defend themselves and their families against these out-of-control predators.

Well, they're payed to write articles which attract readers, so their purpose and morals are presumably beyond approach.

Unfortunately, this is not A New Thing. Newspapers have been publishing lists of Concealed Handgun Permit owners for years, and the consequenes have invariably been outrage and controversy. No wonder the newspapers who find themselves on a slow news day and an 'iffy' advertising revenue list are so willing to jump on Gun Control as a short-term way to boost circulation.

Here are a few similar yellow journalism examples:


On Sunday, February 20, 2000, the Fort Collins Coloradoan printed 4 articles with an anti-gun slant, in addition to a list of all the people who obtained Larimer County Concealed Handgun Permits since July 4, 1999.

Sidebar: in January, 2000, Vin Suprynowciz posted a letter discussing the decision of the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen to

"... no longer allow individuals to sell guns through classified advertisements."

"The Arizona Daily Star announced its policy change Sunday, and The Tucson Citizen's editor and publisher confirmed a similar policy Monday," the AP story continues.

"In a front page notice to readers, Jane Amari, the Star's editor and publisher, said there was concern that people buying through classifieds circumvent background checks now required by law."

This is only significant in that it illustrates the eagerness of small, local newspapers to give up a few advertising dollars (in the Classified Section ... not their regular commercial buyers of display ads) in favor of increasing circulation by means of presenting a Strong Editorial Ethic. Note that Ethics don't pay the bills, unless they lead to increased circulation which is the basis of billing for those display ads. It would be edificatory to hear from Arizona readers who can attes to whether this Advertising Policy has survived the ensuing years of rejected Classified Advertisements.

Also in 2000, the Columbia Journalism Review (scroll down to "Private Guns, Public Records" by Bear Jack Gebhardt), speaking of CCH permits in Colorado, writes:

Back in July 1999, Dave Greiling, executive editor of the Fort Collins Coloradoan, published the names of the 263 people in Larimer County who had recently been granted "concealed carry" gun permits. Not surprisingly, this stirred the ire of the state's gun faithful, including that of a state legislator who introduced a bill prohibiting any future such disclosures in the state. In February, as the bill was waltzing its way through the Colorado legislature, Greiling published another 344 names. This time he stirred not only local ire but also that of Rush Limbaugh and a vocal segment of the nation's gun lobby. They complained all over the Internet, with at least one Web site publishing the names, home addresses, and phone numbers for Greiling, his publisher, and other executives of the Coloradoan, a Gannett daily with a weekday circulation of 28,000. But until the law changes, he'd do it again. The decision to publish the names, Greiling says, didn't come from simply looking around for something to print on a slow news day. A new county sheriff, Jim Alderden, had been elected in 1998 by focusing his campaign partly on the reluctance of the old sheriff, Richard Shockley, to issue concealed carry permits. Shockley required applicants to show "just cause" to go covertly packing, and had issued only about forty permits in eight years. In the first year after Alderden took office, more than 600 people had been issued permits.
"On an issue as highly charged as guns," Greiling wrote in an article explaining his decision, "everyone has the right to know who may be carrying a weapon." Providing such information, he argued, is a newspaper's job. Some of the objections to the publication of names had centered on the idea that printing their names might subject gun owners to some increased danger. "But that flies in the face of the contention of pro-gun advocates," Greiling wrote, "that if the bad guys think you may have a gun, it will deter them from criminal activity."
Gebhardt goes on to cite a bill prohibiting the publication of the names of CCH license owners, although he declines to go into much detail about why this should be avoided.


The Cleveland Plain Dealer, in 2004, "... published a list of all the people with Concealed Handgun Licenses in Northeast Ohio". Eric J. Barzeski responded by publishing a list of the editors of the Plain Dealer.

Also in 2004, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) newspaper published a similar list. Publicola posted a large response to this exercise in "Journalistic Integrity":

I may need some help from any & all of y'all in Indiana. It seems that Fort is thinking about publishing the names of concealed carry permit holders. They have received some negative responses after they mentioned they intended to make the names available online so now they're going to think about it some more.

Quite honestly the idea of publishing the names of gun owners because they were forced to aquire a license is adding insult to injury. The violent criminals don't usually apply for licenses yet they carry when & where they wish. But peaceful citizens have to grovel & bribe their government to let them have permission to exercise what should be respected as a Right in the first place: having the means of defense.
(Note: Broken Links. Don't bother clicking on them, the cited articles no longer are available.)

Publicola fisks the cited (unavailable) article hard, and vigorously. Among the point/counterpoint context, which may provide some insight into the content of the missing original article written by a "Miss Austin"

From the second article linked above written by Miss Austin:

"...They said by putting the information online or in the paper, we're just making it more convenient for people to exercise a right they already have to examine the records."

I do not recall any philisophical, legal or moral theory that lists knowing which peacable people have arms is a Right. I do know of several theories as to why carrying & owning a weapon - even if concealed - is a Right & not subject to licensing or registration requirements
and ...

"The information has the potential to warn people about others who may be carrying a gun. If you're sending your child to my house to play, perhaps you'd like to know if I have a permit to carry a gun."

Here we have a logical disconnect. How would a list of concealed firearm permit holders clue anyone in to who has & doesn't have a firearm in their home? I don't recall Indiana requiring a Firearm Owner Identification Card & even if they did that's not the permit in question: it's concealed carry permits that are being discussed.

So it is very possible that if a hoplophobe wishes his or her child to play at a neighbors house who has no effective way of protecting their kids then they still would be allowing their kid to play at a house with firearms if the owner simply decided that they didn't need a permit to exercise a Right. To put it more plainly - not every gun owner applies for a concealed carry permit so the argument is flawed (to put it kindly).


In 2005, Right Truth published a blog article discussed the efforts of "certain news media outlits" to "publish the names, addresses and other personal information belonging to Florida citizens who have exercised their right to obtain a Concealed Carry Permit".

Also in 2005,
An article in the Dayton (Ohio) "Daily News" notes that "Only Journalists (are) Allowed Access To Records" (about CCH license holders) . As of 2005, Ohio seems to be the only state which restricts 'right of access' to this information to journalists. That doesn't seem a safe way to protect the privacy of Concealed Carry Handgun (CCH) license holders. But at least it minimizes the exposure in the discussion about "Freedom of Access" which seems to be a central theme in these discussions.

Early in 2006, a South Dakota Gun Owners Alert discussed the prediliction of "at least one major newspaper in South Dakota" to publish the names of people who "apply for a concealed pistol permit". (Emphasis mine) This short article went on to describe:

House Bill 1199 (which) would prohibit the release of information concerning applicants or holders of permits to carry a concealed pistol. This would keep newspapers from publishing lists that paint gun owners as dangerous simply because they want to legally carry a handgun for self-defense. You can read the bill here.


Alan Corwin of Bloomfield Press (Arizona) at notes that "It's Easier to Scapegoat an Honest Person Who Owns a Gun Than to Disarm a Criminal" .

Also, David Koppel discusses the hypothesis that we should be "Treating Guns Like Consumer Products" (eg: cars).

More specifically Koppel responds to the question "When Must The Government Disclose Gun Owners' Names and Addresses?" (A PDF, but not slow to load here.)

It would be appallingly easy to dismiss this growing trend toward 'outing' Concealed Carry license owners as simply another tactic of the Gun Control crowd. Just another arrow in their quiver, which they shoot out in every direction in hopes of attacting a few more mindless converts who believe everything they heard from the last person who talked to them.

That would be wrong.

It's not a product of someone who has a societal agenda, however misguided.

No, I truly think it's less than that.

This is a gimmick contrived by small-town newspapers to ramp up circulation by presenting a controversial proposal. The motive is purely monetary. They don't care whether their readers are convinced to embrace one side or the other of a controversial subject. The authors care even less about the consequences of their purple prose than they do about the right to privacy of their community or (if possible) than they do about fact-checking.

They're selling newspapers here, and their policy isn't "All The News That's Fit To Print".

It's "Whatever It Takes To Make A Buck".

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