Opinion: Gun Owners Are Coming to Take Away our Free Speech Rights
Is there anything more delicious than gun owners urging that a right guaranteed under the Constitution should be subject to reasonable regulation if the failure to do so causes harm? They want limitations -- but not on the Second Amendment right to bear arms but rather the First Amendment right of free speech. A Westchester County, N.Y. newspaper, the Journal News, published a map showing the names and addresses of pistol permit holders. The information was public and there is no real dispute over the right to publish it. Nonetheless, the outcry from gun advocates was deafening.
The primary complaint seemed slightly illogical: the publication of the information placed gun owners in greater danger from criminals. Wait a minute. Isn't this what it's all about -- that having a gun in your house protects you from criminals and deters them? Why would criminals knowing that you have a weapon in the house increase rather than reduce the risk of home invasion? Publicizing those that don't have guns might do that, but that complaint doesn't come from gun owners.
On the other hand, neighbors, particularly parents, would like to know if their children are playing at houses that have guns. They fear that one of those four-year-old "bad guys" will find and play with their father's gun and accidentally shoot their child. Others might be concerned that the crazy guy next door has a weapon. Opponents of the publication validly claim that it might target weapons for theft. It also identifies the location of law enforcement personnel, police and prison guards; although one suspects that such information regarding addresses is available through other sources.
Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter ranted on this issue like two inmates in an insane asylum. In the most ludicrous analogy every posited, Coulter said if these facts about gun owners can be posted, why not publicize "which women (who had an abortion) on the street are likely to murder a child" -- suggesting that somehow a woman who had an abortion is likely to murder someone else's child! She also declared that "liberals won't let us go after criminals," and, of course, "They are coming after our guns!" In like vain, the newspaper received death threats and had to hire security guards. I don't think even the NRA can claim that these threats came from criminals rather than "law-abiding" gun owners.
The point of all of this is that there well may be some merit to the concerns from the publication of this information, despite the absolute right to do so. Maybe reconsideration should be given to designating this as public information or thought be given to restricting its publication in a reasonable and sensible way. Maybe those who oppose publication are not intent on destroying all rights of free speech, just in the same way persons who want to restrict and regulate semi-automatic weapons, huge ammunition magazines and gun shows are not necessarily intent on confiscating all guns. Free speech certainly does less harm than guns. Shouldn't both be susceptible to some sensible and reasonable regulation in the public interest? Encroachment, limitations or regulations of any constitutional right should be done with great caution and only for compelling reasons, but if the First Amendment should yield a little to reason -- should not the Second as well?