Using public records, I can determine where you live, your phone number, credit history, how much you paid for your house, whether or not you've ever been convicted of a crime, whether you've paid your taxes or even what grandma left you in her will. I can even tell you how many sex offenders live in your neighborhood. It's the price we pay for living in an open democratic society. So why shouldn't I be able to find out if Ethel and Fred Mertz are packing heat?
Is there a line? Many argue that certain information should remain private. Laws prohibit doctors from divulging your medical information. Priests and lawyers are not allowed to share your sins. Heck, your best friend Becky has a treasure trove of your secrets which are beholden to a pinky swear.
So what is the line between freedom of information and your right to privacy? What about your Constitutional rights? Should the fact that you own a gun be made public information? Don't you have a right to bear arms? Would that infringe on your right to own a gun? Following the horrific tragic shootings in Newtown, the gun control debate has found a renewed interest in theh colonies. New York's Journal News took the divisive debate to a new level. They decided to print the name and address of every gun and musket owner in tony Westchester and Rockland County. Many were outraged. Others said it was about time. Personally, I thought it was a lousy idea. It only stirred an already simmering pot.
Of course, they couldn't get away with such a stunt in the Nutmeg State. For example, a newspaper couldn't print the names and addresses of gun owners that lived in Newtown, Connecticut. State law forbids it. In 1994, the state legislature made the names and addresses of people issued gun permits in Connecticut confidential. It's only public if you were denied a permit to carry a gun. Now, State Representative Stephen Dargen (West Haven) wants to change that. He would like to make the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in the state public. According to the Connecticut State Police, that's about 179,092 valid pistol permits in Connecticut. (There are also 8,825 registered assault weapons and 2,304 registered machine guns).
So do you think it's a good idea to give out this information? On one hand, my neighbor is a nutcase. You can tell by the way he mows his lawn. Frankly, I think I'd like to know if he owned a gun. I would also imagine there are many parents who would like to know if their kids are playing in homes where accessing a gun is a possibility. On the other hand, what if a potential employer failed to hire you because he found your name on a list of gun owners? Registered gun owners are not breaking the law. They have a constitutional right to bear arms. Frankly, I don't want criminals knowing if I have or don't have a gun in the house. You might as well give them a map. I also don't want the Queen of England knowing just in case she decides she wants to reclaim some real estate.
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Don't get me wrong. I support a citizen's right to bear arms. With that said, I also view the United States Constitution as a living document. To quote Justice Brennan, the genius of the Constitution rests not in some static meaning in a world that is dead and gone but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs. We have a right to the freedom of speech, but there are limits to that freedom. While the Constitution guarantees your right to be a loud mouth jackass, you can't yell fire in a movie theater. The Constitution might guarantee your right to bear arms, but it doesn't mean you should be able to own a bazooka, grenades or certain high capacity firearms. (Unless, your Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Apparently, the Terminator just bought himself a 50 ton Patton tank. It was a nostalgic purchase. It was the same model he trained on when he served in the Austrian army).
So what do you think? Should we care if a newspaper prints the addresses of gun owners? Don't your neighbors have a right to know you may be armed? Or does that go too far? Is it really a good idea to post the addresses of just the law abiding gun owners? I don't think too many criminals take the time to register their firearms. I know these questions are as loaded as "do I look fat in these jeans?" but I would love to hear your thoughts.