If you own a gun in Illinois, take precautions. The state attorney general, Lisa Madigan, wants to release the names of guns owners in response to an Associated Press request. Publication of that list would tell the criminal class where the guns are, which could be useful to two different sorts of lawbreakers: gun thieves who want to know where the guns are and burglars who want to know where they are not.
New York City released its list recently at The New York Times' request. It included "dozens of boldface names and public figures: prominent business leaders, elected officials, celebrities, journalists, judges and lawyers," the Times reported. It then named names.
People who want the lists made public say the disclosure is necessary to assure that government doesn't issue permits to felons. They point to an AP report that gun permits were given to hundreds of felons in Florida, Tennessee and Indiana. So because government is not competent enough to obey its own rules, the rest of us must have our privacy compromised? I don't buy it.
As Richard Pearson of the Illinois State Rifle Association says: "There is no legitimate reason for anyone to have access to the information. The safety of real people is at stake here. Once this information is released, it will be distributed to street gangs and gun-control groups, who will use the data to target gun owners for crime and harassment."
Good point. One nice thing about concealed weapons is that even people who don't carry guns are safer because the muggers can't tell who is armed and who isn't. Releasing the list of permit-holders undermines that benefit. It's not unusual for a woman who has been threatened by an ex-husband or boyfriend to obtain a gun and a carry permit for self-protection. Why should the threatening male get to find out if the woman is armed?
The anti-gun lobby downplays this danger as though it were inconceivable that someone would get names off a list in order to commit violence. However, we know of cases where people named on sex-offender registries were murdered.
We also know that lawful gun owners in New Orleans had their guns confiscated by government authorities after Hurricane Katrina.
No one should be soothed by assurances that publication of those lists poses no threat to law-abiding gun owners.