Editorial: Gun ownership should be public information
Published: Monday, April 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
Connecticut recently passed a series of laws to crack down on gun violence in the state. Following the Newtown tragedy and the fact that gun related incidents have doubled in the city of New Haven since 2009, Conn. lawmakers have decided that enough is enough. Part of this new plan involves the creation of a statewide weapon offender registry for those who are convicted of a range of crimes that involve firearms or another deadly weapon.
Many are upset by the idea that a registry will exist of people who own guns. However, the registry will only include those convicted of a crime, not simply accused. In addition, the new law only creates a registry that is accessible to the police in the state.
However, despite complaints, there may be wisdom in allowing this list to be seen by the public and not just the police. Although there isn’t any real practical reason that people would want access to such a registry, it is a matter of transparency. The information that this registry is taking time, money and effort to produce is compiled of information that is already available to the public. Right now, almost any citizen has the means to go around the state and compile this data that is based entirely on information that is already public information.
The idea that this registry is going to be somehow safer or less of a hindrance because only law enforcement officials have access to it is a bit of governmental smoke and mirrors. The information is not special to police, it will just be in a more convenient format for them. There is no reason to keep it from the public other than to make the information that they might want slightly more difficult to see.
It is not our place, with this column, to question the wisdom behind creating this registry at all. However, if the state of Conn. wants to be the first to have a statewide weapon offender registry, then perhaps they should set a clear and less embarrassing example for the rest of the country. Trying to say that the list is somehow more secure simply because the general public doesn’t have access to it is false. This is because they already have access to it, just in a different format. If the government wishes to make gun owners feel safe, they should do it with actual legislation that protects their rights, as they have in many ways. However, the gun registry not being made available to the public is not safety or privacy, it is merely the illusion of safety and privacy.
For that reason, the state of Conn. should make this new registry available for the public to see. Not because it is of dire importance for the average citizen to know whom the gun offenders in the state are, although many would argue differently. It must be made public because it is a compilation of already public information, the idea of suddenly making a new way of organizing it private information is preposterous.