Why Are New York Gun Permits Public Information?
There’s been significant uproar since a New York newspaper published a database of permit holders for handguns within its readership area. The decision to treat gun owners as sex-offenders is indeed worthy of criticism, and there’s no valid public benefit for exposing the privacy of citizens in such fashion. But it seems to me the bulk of the criticism ought to be directed at another target – the government of New York. They should not have ever made this information available in the first place.
The newspaper in question merely collected and put into easily accessible form information that was already publicly available by Freedom of Information Act request. They had no valid reason to do even this beyond cheap sensationalism, but it ought to be the government that is held most responsible. The information was none of the newspaper’s business and never should have been available to it in any form.
People must be free to exercise their rights without undue fear of intimidation tactics by intolerant political opponents. It is for this reason that we have secret ballots. If the government is going to require permits for the exercise of particular rights, a highly dubious and questionable practice to begin with, we ought to all at least agree that they will keep the information to themselves.
Some states, like Florida and Illinois, exempt such information from FOIA requests. New York and any other state that has not yet enacted the same protections to ensure the privacy of law-abiding citizens must immediately do the same. It is simply not the place of government to track and make public the lawful activities of the people.