Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gun Rights

Andrew Sullivan asked why gun-owners don't want their names published in the newspaper, essentially asking why anyone would be ashamed of exercising their civil rights. I was stunned enough by the question to wonder if he was making some elaborate joke. Apparently, he was not -- he was legitimately curious.

In case you weren't following the story, this began when the Tennessean constructed a searchable database of registered concealed-carry permit holders. Odd to say the least -- I wasn't aware that the public in Tennessee was clamoring for such information. In any case, Instapundit had a solid response to Andrew's question, by pointing out the positive externalities in not knowing who has a gun (if you're a burglar, the Tennesseean's list was like a roadmap of houses to avoid) and in the fact that there is a legitimate privacy interest of the owners of such permits. If they want to make the public aware of their right to carry, that's their business, but it probably should not be open knowledge. or as he noted:

If abortion is a civil right, why would anyone object to having a newspaper publish a searchable database of people who've had one?

Eugene Volokh and Dave Kopel at Volokh made the same points and added some more, including the societal interest in keeping secret the location on domestic abuse victims with permits out of a reasonable fear for their safety (Kopel also notes that retired police officers may be subject to threats as well).

Give Sullivan credit for responding when questioned, and acknowledging the accurate points made by the aforementioned people. But then there's his end point, which rankled me to no end...

Glenn Reynolds argues that the important thing is keeping people guessing about who has a gun or not. Fair enough. But I'm not that impressed by wusses who don't want to be ostracized by liberal elites at their neighborhood barbecues. Isn't that part of the point of owning a gun - pissing off liberals?
Sullivan openly acknowledges that he's gay, so I find his statement somewhat disconcerting. This isn't quite like asking Sullivan if he's out of the closet to piss off bigoted neighbors, but it's somewhat close.In both instances, we're talking about private information -- if Andrew wants to tell someone he's gay, that's his business. I don't necessarily think that people should be in the closet about their sexuality, but that's their business, and I certainly understand why they might want to keep it a secret.

Owning a gun doesn't lead to the same level of ostracism (since I don't own one, I can't testify to whether it occurs or not), but no one enjoys being ostracized in their own community, either. Contrary to popular belief, most conservatives get tired of having to defend themselves against the other side's beliefs, whether well-intentioned or ignorant. I suspect the same is true of gun-owners. While it's always fun to annoy the self-righteous liberals whom I live amongst, they are my neighbors, and it's easier to live your life with neighbors who consider you an oddball conservative Republican rather than that crazy gun-toting rube. Heck, at times I'd rather not be known as the oddball conservative Republican.


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