Newspapers in various states have decided to seek the names, addresses, and other personal information about concealed carry permit holders in order to publish that information in their papers, on the theory that the public is entitled to know this information. The newspapers’ actual agenda is rather straightforward – cause difficulty for concealed carry permit holders, in order to deter people from exercising their Second Amendment rights. My thoughts on the matter are below:
Examples of newspapers publishing the names of concealed carry permit holders
Most recently, a newspaper company had sued to demand that the sheriff of Jackson County, Oregon release a list of all concealed carry permit holders. The lower court ordered the release, and Sheriff Rob Gordon appealed. The Oregon Court of Appeals is now deciding whether to order the release of concealed carry permit holders’ personal information. In a similar case, a Florida newspaper published the names of concealed carry permit holders in 2007, just as an Iowa newspaper published the names of concealed carry permit holders that same year. There are also other similar cases where law abiding citizens have had their personal information published by newspaper editors bent on fighting against the right to keep and bear arms.
Why this publication is bad
Concealed carry permit holders are law abiding citizens who wish to be able to defend themselves and their families from violent criminals. Some fear a particular threat, such as a violent and abusive ex, or being targeted because of their fame/wealth. Many others just wish to be able to defend themselves against the random violent crime that is all too common these days. Regardless of the specific reason that people get concealed carry permits, the common thread is a desire to protect themselves. Having the fact that they are a concealed carry permit holder disclosed undermines their ability to protect themselves. With their concealed carry permit status published in the newspaper, an abusive ex would now know that the victim could defend herself, and may therefore attack with more violence or attempt to disarm the victim. Those plotting a kidnapping or robbery of an individual will be in a better position to plan and execute their crime too. Ordinary citizens whose personal concealed carry information is published may also face persecution by other citizens who don’t understand and appreciate gun rights, as there are many people that ignorantly stereotype gun owners in a negative way.
Why the “public records” argument doesn’t justify publication
The newspaper editors justify their publication of concealed carry permit holders’ personal information by saying that these records are public documents, and that they therefore have a right to publish them in order to inform the public of the news. This argument is without merit, and this example should make the reason why clear:
A rape victim may fill out a police report and participate in the criminal prosecution of the rapist. The police report and court records are often public records, however it would be unconscionable to publish the rape victim’s name, address, and other personal information. Doing so could cause the rape victim great emotional distress, and subject them to further attacks by copycat criminals. The public interest in knowing about the existence of crime within the community can be satisfied by just stating that such a crime occurred; disclosing the victim’s personal information bears no relation to any legitimate public need for information.
Similarly, any legitimate public interest in knowing about the prevalence of concealed carry permits could be satisfied by publishing anonymous aggregate statistics, rather than personal information. Just because it (might) be legal to publish the personal information of concealed carry permit holders doesn’t mean that it is responsible for a newspaper to do so.
My thanks to Anders for pointing out the Oregon concealed carry permit disclosure issue.