I'm for gun control, but publishing and mapping the names and addresses of all handgun permit holders in two counties, as The Journal News of New York's Lower Valley did just before Christmas, strikes me as really wrongheaded. I think America's gun culture makes it ridiculously easy for the wrong people to get guns, and spreads the message that guns are the ideal way to resolve many conflicts (as well as the only bulwark against the instant tyranny that would befall us if we took even a baby step down the gun-control slippery slope). The gun lobby ensures that just about every dispute involving access to guns is resolved in favor of making more guns available to more people -- ex-cons, the mentally ill, even criminals -- and in favor of depriving law enforcement of the information it needs to fight and prevent gun crime.
Which is another way of saying that lawful gun owners, however much they (or at least some of them) may have fallen for the NRA's BS, aren't the real problem. Here's an analogy: Imagine if the liquor industry did everything in its power to shield drunk drivers from the consequences of their actions; imagine if records of DUIs had to be destroyed within 24 hours, or if liquor lobbyists campaigned to make it next to impossible to suspend the license of repeat DUI offenders. Imagine if there were no legal regulation of sales of alcohol at private "liquor shows." And so on. Now imagine if, under those circumstances, a newspaper decided to fight DUIs by posting store surveillance video that recorded the face of everyone in a county who made a purchase at any liquor store. Is that fair? Is that targeting the right people in the right way?
After the financial crash, should we have published and mapped the names and addresses of everyone whose house was going through foreclosure? If crime rises, and some media outlet decides it's because of the decline of marriage, should we identify all the single parents in a county? Should I go on?
On the other hand, it seems to me that the biggest victims of this newspaper story so far have been the people who work at the paper.
Calls and e-mails grew so threatening that the paper's president and publisher, Janet Hasson, hired armed guards to monitor the newspaper's headquarters in White Plains and its bureau in West Nyack, N.Y.Over the weekend, Fox News quoted "reformed crooks" who said that the gun map would make the job of burglars easier -- but has that actually happened? Is there more crime as a result of this? You'd think, if criminals carefully consider gun ownership before breaking into a house, that the bad guys would have wanted to pounce on this information, and quickly, before non-gun owners can apply for permits? Have they? I really don't know. I'd like to know.
Personal information about editors and writers at the paper has been posted online, including their home addresses and information about where their children attended school; some reporters have received notes saying they would be shot on the way to their cars; bloggers have encouraged people to steal credit card information of Journal News employees; and two packages containing white powder have been sent to the newsroom and a third to a reporter's home (all were tested by the police and proved to be harmless).
On the other hand, if inmates are telling prison guards that they know where the guards live, as was also reported over the weekend, that's not good.
I just don't think unedited document dumps are the best way to try to start righting wrongs in this society. I was never a big fan of Wikileaks, and I don't like this, either.