The decision of a newspaper in New York’s Westchester County to publish an interactive map that allowed readers to discover the names and addresses of owners of legal guns is generally being debated as one about whether the Gannett-owned Journal News showed good judgment. It didn’t, but the problem goes a lot deeper than whether or not a newspaper ought to publicize information that is legally available to the public in this manner. The controversy goes to the heart of the entire discussion about guns in this country.
No matter what those behind this stunt say, this wasn’t about the safety of the community or the right of the public to information. Rather, this was about the desire on the part of some in the liberal mainstream media to stigmatize legal gun ownership and to whip up sentiment for not just tighter controls but an eventual ban. This makes it easier to understand why the National Rifle Association fiercely resists even the most reasonable gun control measures. If even those who have jumped through the not inconsiderable hoops erected by the authorities to gain a legal gun permit in New York are now to be treated as if they were the moral equivalent of sex offenders, it’s clear the goal of the anti-gun media is not just to focus discussion on assault weapons and large ammunition clips but to ban individual gun ownership altogether.
The article accompanying the interactive map about “the gun owner next door” made it clear the boogeyman to those who wish to push more gun control legislation isn’t just an NRA leadership that is tone deaf to the country’s mood. It is the ordinary American exercising his right to possess a legal firearm while observing all the legal niceties. That’s made clear by a piece that begins by discussing a violent crime committed by a person with two unregistered guns but then quickly shifts to the discussion of who owns legal and registered guns. The conceit of the article is to heighten suspicion of all gun owners and to render them pariahs. That effect is not softened by the fact that the author notes that he has a legally registered pistol.
For all of the incessant calls for civil debate from the liberal media, this is exactly the sort of thing that makes such a discussion impossible. Advocates of gun control in Congress claim that talk of banning all guns is crazy, but stunts like this demonstrate that such foolish ideas are bubbling very close to the surface in the liberal media. Broad support for some changes in existing gun laws probably exists right now in the wake of the Newtown massacre. But the chances for putting reasonable limits on military-style weapons or ammunition clips will be sunk if the anti-gun zealots in the media continue to show their real agenda is creating an atmosphere in which all firearms will be banned.
Legal gun owners don’t deserve to have their privacy invaded or to be made the targets of criminals who will use the information published by the newspaper as a database to aid their efforts to steal weapons from their owners. Nor do they deserve to be hounded and abused in this manner. More to the point, this is exactly what should be avoided if the country is to have a discussion about guns that doesn’t boil down to a shouting match between those who want guns banned and those who want no restrictions or accountability.