Making licensing data public would be little more than a fishing expedition
The question posed by your July 3 editorial — “Should you know if your neighbor has a gun?” — has a simple answer: No. Not any more than you have a right to know anything else that is in their house. Exercising your Second Amendment rights does not mean giving up your other rights, including your right to privacy.
The question itself is misleading: The list you favor would tell where people who are licensed to legally possess firearms live; however, most gun crimes are committed by unlicensed owners with illegally obtained weapons. And while a publicly available list of licensed gun owners might make crooks less likely to break into those owners’ residences while someone is home, it is more likely to make them a target when nobody is home.
What you describe sounds more like a fishing expedition: Get a list of everyone who went through the process to get a license, and then do what? On the basis of nothing but their receiving that license, search their driving record, organizations they belong to, social media history? Not for anything criminal, but just for things you don’t like?
Like so much gun “safety” legislation, this is a bad idea that should go exactly nowhere.
Public database could do more harm than good
The Globe Editorial Board advocates invading the privacy of people with gun permits. This was a great example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I say this as a resident of Boston who has both a mental disorder and a license to carry. The editorial’s proposal would put a target on my back with angry neighbors as well as anyone looking to steal a gun — despite the fact that I don’t actually own any firearms.
I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and I chronicled the process of getting my license to carry for an article in 2016. I have since written numerous stories and spoken internationally on TV and radio about gun reform, thanks in large part to the firsthand experience I gained in getting my license. I wish the editorial board had pursued similar avenues of research. While their heads and hearts may have been in the right place, their words were irresponsible. An accessible public database with names and addresses of people with a license to carry has the potential to do far more harm than good, particularly for marginalized people and — as the editorial notes — victims of domestic violence, who may have pressing reasons to desire both security and privacy.
This country needs gun reform. The police interviews required for an LTC in Massachusetts are far from perfect. But public shaming and social media stalking aren’t the way to go about it.
A right to bear arms, and to privacy
After reading your editorial advocating disclosure of where and how gun owners obtain permits, I’m left asking: When did Big Brother join the editorial board?
Exactly where is it written that the public has a “right to know if their neighbors own guns”? I searched the Constitution in vain for even a hint of one. But I did find a clear constitutional precept that states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” If ever there were an “infringement,” outing information on firearm owners qualifies.
Using concern over the case of one criminal to justify blanket intrusion into the private affairs of every law-abiding owner of firearms is but another example of tarring them as guilty with no proof of innocence possible. If you’re concerned about dangerous items people have secreted in their homes, why not a right to know whether neighbors own books advocating sinister ideas, such as “freedom” and “liberty”?
You can debate all you want whether disclosing information on gun owners makes them more or less likely to be targets for theft, but the bottom line is that it’s nobody’s business, especially the Globe’s, who owns what or what choices they make for protection of home and family.
Scott St. Clair
Safety should not come at expense of freedom
Gun ownership should be private, and there should be no public release of who does or does not own one, nor the level of the permit.
The online subhead of your editorial reads, “The Winthrop case highlights the importance of knowing where and how gun-owners obtained a permit.”
Yes, after a crime, not before.
A state lawmaker says, “Some departments do extensive social media searches [on the applicant for a gun license] while others don’t.”
It’s inappropriate for the government to be searching an individual’s social media entries. Why? Because it facilitates discrimination based on the content of the entries. No matter what the “intention” is, a person with any judgment knows that intentions often have little to do with how things are actually used (and remember how the road to hell is paved — a bit of wisdom the Globe does not seem to understand).
What this is really about is the Globe’s calling for reducing individuals’ rights anywhere and everywhere it thinks public safety might be increased. There is more to life than just being “safe” when your freedoms are eliminated in the process.
W. David Goble