Civil Discourse Now

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New York newspaper's printing of names and addresses of gun permit holders; irresponsible, but protected by the First Amendment.

   The Westchester Journal and News, a newspaper in New York, this week printed the names and addresses of gun permits holders in the county in which it is located and a neighboring county. This was an irresponsible act protected by the First Amendment that was meant purely for the attention it received.

   1) If the intent was to alert area residents of the proximity, to a reader’s home or business, of people who own guns—excuse me, but Wiiliams Tire Foundation (WTF)!? The people who go to the trouble of clearing background checks to acquire firearms might have a greater percentage chance of shooting themselves (accident or suicide or domestic dispute with someone with whom they live) or a loved one (accident or domestic dispute), but I do not see many "neighbors" listed in that demographic. If a person is drunk and pissed off, it takes a while to go next door, get strapped, come back, and blow Mr. Wilson (oblique reference to "Dennis the Menace") away. These people are in stats that would indicate they are less likely to commit criminal acts, although Adam Lanza used firearms that were purchased legally by his mother ( and the kids in the school were not fellow household members). Instead, the newspaper could have (perhaps did, I have seen a graphic) published a map with dots to show where guns are located. That gets across the point of proximity.

   2) Really? I mean, really? People needed to know how close gun owners are to them? If I walk into an Indianapolis bar (a rare occasion) I presume half the people pack heat. That presumption is based on years of field research and observation. Of course this is Indiana and that’s New York, but this is the United States. Of course people in your neighborhood own firearms. The people without permits are those individuals about whom one should worry more.

   3) As I have written previously, burglars like to steal guns because no fence is needed to unload a heater. (I will use, in today’s blog, as many euphemisms for firearms as possible; I just watched part of the Thin Man series of movies and am in a Dashiell Hammett mood.) Burglars do not like to break into places where people are present. That is why most home burglaries occur during the day (when the lucky are at work). Burglars, as a general rule, are lazy. (That is part of why they are burglars.)  The information the newspaper printed is public information, i.e., members of the public with enough initiative could have gone to the right office or gone on-line and obtained that info themselves. The newspaper simply gave the info to people too lazy to look it up. Now those people have maps to guide them as to where to steal a roscoe (another, albeit archaic, euphemism). One could argue the publication acted as a warning to burglars of neighborhoods around which they should steer clear. No—they wait, like Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s characters—and watch and break in when they think no one is at home. And setting up a trap gun is a REALLY bad idea, both illegal and stupid (the pizza guy got shot? How’d that happen?)

   4) All that said, the newspaper is protected by The First Amendment to print what it printed, just as someone, in response, printed the names and addresses of people who work for that newspaper. I do not think it likely a burglar will break into the home of a newspaper employee to steal the person’s thesaurus (where the burglar could find out "piece" is another word for a gun). In America liberty carries risks (for now. Some see people on "the left" as the threat to liberty; others see the people on "the right as posing such a threat; I see the threat as corporations).

   5) Even if someone has a right, under the Constitution, to print something, that does not mean it is appropriate to do so. This is an example of an article that should not have been printed. But hey—this is America. The newspaper probably sold more issues that it has in quite some time. With the news gutted by the internet (I need to pay a buck this morning to read what I read on-line for free last night?) and newspaper classified ads gutted by the internet (Craig’s List—the nation’s fence), the Westchester Journal and News probably has not sold so many copies since the 1983 dance at the Huguenot Yacht Club. Yes, it’s a very upperclass sort of area. Profit is the name of the news game. So the people who own those gun permits probably have super home security systems anyway.

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