Friday, December 28, 2012

Josh Marshall worries that someone somewhere has put a list of gun owners on the web, and then he mentions this which only proves he really doesn't know anything about guns at all:

A lot of people are divided about this, it seems. A number of people have asked whether this isn’t the same as if we published the names of women who get abortions. It’s an interesting hypothetical. But I think the answer is relatively clear cut: my owning a gun affects my neighbor in a way that a woman having an abortion simply does not. Whether you think about it in terms of self-defense (this person has a firearm in their harm and can defend against an intruder) or simply safety (there’s a gun in that house, maybe I don’t want my kid playing there), owning a gun is not just something that affects those around you. That’s a lot of the point … certainly if self-defense is part of the aim. Current law seems to recognize this. After all, there’s a reason why this information is in the public domain in the first place — the newspaper just made it easier to access.

My neighbor of twenty years ago kept rifles in his house, and hand guns.  Not an arsenal, but two or three total.  His house was just across his driveway from my house, and my daughter's bedroom was on that side of my house.  I didn't worry about my daughter playing in their house (she was only a year old when we lived there).  I worried about him firing that gun at an intruder (why he said he kept them; he didn't go hunting) and the bullet smashing through the walls of his house and then the walls of my house and maybe through my daughter.

Which is why I'm not so concerned when newspapers publish the names of gun owners.  After all, I can buy a gun at a gun show so long as I have the money.  But I have to show ID to the pharmacist to buy Sudafed at my local pharmacy, and if I try to buy more in too short a span of time, I'll be refused the purchase.  Somebody might stock Sudafed in order to cook meth, but my box isn't going to go off and wound or kill my neighbor.  Yet I could stockpile thousands of bullets, if I chose to, and no one would ever need to know.

Until I decided to use them for a crime.  Which, of course, is why I can't stockpile Sudafed.  But the government keeps track of when I buy it.

What's wrong with this picture?


  1. Windhorse1:13 PM

    A similar episode happened yesterday. An author by the name of John Cook on published a searchable list of permitted gun owners in Manhattan that he'd received from the police by FOIA request a few years back. He says in the article that he did this in response to a challenge from Ann Coulter, who said she wanted to see the names of all the liberals in Manhattan who own guns, ostensibly to reveal their hypocrisy on the issue. While not identifying liberals per se, of course, the list does show name and license type of handgun owners. But it's incomplete. First of all, it doesn't show anyone's address as is required by law. What that means is that if there is more than one John Smith or Windhorse there is no way to tell which is a gun owner and which is not. Further, the list doesn't record any rifle or shotgun owners at all, which at the end of the day, are guns that will kill you just as dead. So the usefulness of this or any other incomplete database for nefarious purposes, by a tyrannic government or common criminal, is nil.

    Despite that, the response by the commentariat was nothing short of stunning. Word presumably got around the NRA grapevine and within hours hundreds of commenters appeared on the page, filled with rage over the publication of the list. Some vowed never to visit any of the Gawker sites again, which was the very least of the threats. The word "f**k" was bandied about liberally, as were monikers that suggested violence against liberals like "Death to all Communists." Many wished violence on the author. One posted an address, presumably the author's, and a female name that was a probably a wife or daughter, and mused aloud sardonically that it would be just terrible if something happened to her...clearly daring one of the other ragers to take some kind of threatening or violent action.

    Many complained that the list put them in danger, although none of them could say exactly why, particularly when their argument is that their guns keep them safe from danger from danger. Some of the more clever ones realized the weakness of this position and argued instead that the author had put in danger everyone in New York who was NOT on the list, because criminals would now know that they didn't own guns. They mockingly "thanked" the author for helping deter attacks against them and blamed them for future violence against the gunless.

    However, other commenters unwittingly undermined even this criticism, proudly announcing that they own all sorts of unregistered weapons just so they don't end up in a database. Not to mention all the rifle and shotgun owners who weren't on the list in the first place. Which means, of course, that a list like this puts precisely no one in any sort of danger at all, because the status of weapons for anyone and everyone in New York is now in a state of Heisenbergian uncertainty. If you choose to enter someone's home for criminal purposes you won't know if they have guns to defend themselves until you get your face blown off - or don't.

    So there really was no downside for gun owners by having this list published. There was no conceivable damage from it.  That didn't stop the inchoate rage and threats of violence at the author lawfully reposting what is already public information, available to anyone, in response to a challenge by a pro-gun conservative pundit who challenged liberals to produce such a list.

  2. Windhorse1:14 PM

    Another incident two weeks ago involved Professor Erik Loomis who blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money. He tweeted after the latest gun massacre that he wanted to see the current president of the NRA's "head on a stick," clearly a metaphor. However, Michelle Malkin and Glenn Reynolds were happy to intentionally misread his metaphor and accused him of "eliminationist rhetoric," unleashing thousands of people on his blog to threaten him, calling his employer demanding he be fired, going to news agencies to smear him, and causing so many death threats against he and his family he couldn't keep up with them.

    Here's the thing, and the what seemed to escape the notice of the complainants in these cases: If you are so unstable that harmless actions like these provoke you into an uncontrollabe rage - then you should not have access to guns. Period. For sane people, I think that goes without saying.

    But the broader issue is that so many people with guns seem to be so incredibly angry and unstable. There is definitely a correlation there. And that is what is truly concerning to me in a country where so many people own guns....

  3. Cops are safe because they carry guns, right?

    And if someone published a list of registered car owners in NYC, would that be bad? Or just shorter?

    I agree: aren't these people too unstable to own guns?