Lately the news has been buzzing about a database and map of gun owners which was made available by a news organization in NY. Those of us with concealed permits in the WRAL viewing area have not forgotten the ill-conceived database they still host on their website. Back in July I posted several times regarding WRAL and the database. One blogger mentioned my blog when discussing the database. I find the comments below his blog post very interesting to read. What he said which is of interest today was:
As a First Amendment advocate, I think public records means records are public. They should be easy to get to. If someone wants to make them searchable, that’s the way of the world these days. Why, there are tabloids that print the names and photos of everyone who has been arrested. That’s certainly an invasion, too. It may not be nice, but it’s legal.
I say all that to say this: I wouldn’t do it again. It was never a question of “could we” publish. But sometimes, just because you can publish doesn’t mean you should. While the information is public, I think it is a privacy violation. Not in any legal sense, but in a practical sense. As I think about it, I don’t see any significant public service purpose in telling the community who has a gun permit. It doesn’t say they have a weapon. It doesn’t say they may go off and shoot someone. But the implications are there.
And it doesn’t make the community any safer.
I’m glad someone finally understands. Providing lists and maps only vilifies honest law-abiding citizens. One look at the WRAL website and you can plainly see their intent by where the information is located. News – Public Records – Crime & Public Safety – Results. The first result is the Map, second is a crime map, third is Sex Offenders, fourth is FBI crime, fifth is NC crime. So out of five topics, four are criminal reports and maps and one is law-abiding citizens. What is the public to infer from the way the information is presented? I get it that not everyone believes you have the right to have or carry a firearm, but after I have had a class on safety and deadly force including a range qualification, have had a background check, both criminal and mental, and have been fingerprinted I should not be treated like a criminal by news organization with an agenda.