Thursday, December 03, 2009

Gun Owners & Sex Offenders

Sex offenders have their home address information made public thanks to Megan's Law, with the idea being that people who have children have a right to know. That idea is controversial for some people, on the grounds that those who have served their time should not have to wear the Scarlet Letter after completion of sentence.

Along comes the Bloomington Herald-Times, with this announcement:
"This week, will launch its new gun permit database. You'll be able to search gun permit records by county, city or town and street."

Why should gun owners be treated on par with sex offenders? What compelling interest does the public have in knowing who has legally registered a firearm? Who is it that the Herald-Times hopes to help?

One who might benefit from such info? A would-be robber. "Not going to Kole's house, but I see that on his street there is a string of five houses in a row without firearms. Hmm. Think I'll hit the middle one, as far from armed residents as possible."

Maybe if we're publishing the names and addresses of people who legally enjoy the 2nd Amendment, we can publish the names and addresses of people who enjoy the 1st, such as newspaper journalists. Well, no. That's just a knee-jerk reaction towards serving one a dose of his own medicine. It would serve them right, but wouldn't serve liberty too well. *sigh*

(h/t Libertarian Party of Indiana, Duncan Adams, Sean Shepard, Andy Horning)


Doug said...

I've said it before. We're in the Panopticon.

Mike Kole said...

Science fiction writer and physicist David Brin wrote a non-fiction book some ten years ago called 'The Transparent Society' and a pretty decent science fiction novel called "Kiln People" that take the position that being constantly observed is inevitable, and should be embraced. Brin essentially says that your best case scenario of the Panopticon will play out. Brin is a libertarian, fwiw.

I'm not so sure. It will have the effect of changing behavior, for sure. Who controls the ability to constantly monitor, and what they do with the info, is critically important to me. I suspect it will limit freedom, and not just the freedom to act badly lest one is corrected by shame, as in Dog Poop Girl from a few years back.

Doug said...

I remember a debate about Brin's book in some forum or another when it came out. I can't remember the particulars but have a vague recollection of people speaking harshly about Brin.

I guess my sense is that the information is being gathered and will continue to be gathered. Rules against public disclosure of the information will serve mainly to limit those who follow the rules.

Doug said...

Memories starting to come back. It was back when I followed the Electronic Frontier Foundation more closely and Mike Godwin got into an online debate with Brin.

Mike Kole said...

I just pulled 'Transparent Society' off my bookshelf, and to my surprise it *does not* include a reference to Panopticon. I would have expected it to.

Also remembering more of Brin's thoughts on this, he seemed to think that if you were one of the people who followed the rules, you had nothing to fear, because the surveillence would merely prove that you are on the level.

I suppose that's true, but one thing I always recall about transparency in political fundraising is the negative effects it can have. How many people gave me $99 so they wouldn't have to fill out a form that would be public? Or, to cite a historical item, the civil rights movement and the key lawmakers who supported civil rights legislation received money from white people in the South who didn't want their neighbors to see what they were funding.

It isn't all good, and there are unintended consequences. Although, with the campaign finance laws, the writers know the chilling effect that making one's donations public can have. That's a large part of the real reason for that rule.