Today, I have to apologize for my profession. Not because of a general act that most journalist commit, but because of the actions of a single newspaper that seems to believe it’s right for them to treat law abiding citizens the same as sex offenders are treated when it decided to show an interactive map showing who all has guns in their community.
The Journal News, a Gannett newspaper, published the map on their website following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting earlier this month. Their argument is that people have a right to know who has guns in their community and was put together with Freedom of Information requests. As such, they are essentially publishing public information, something The Albany Journal does as well.
However, unlike our publishing of jail lists and the restaurant scores, what The Journal News did crosses the line. Sure, the information is publicly available, but the vast majority of gun owners will never commit a crime with them. In fact, the weapons Adam Lanza used weren’t legally purchased. He took them from his mother, who he murdered to get them. What The Journal News did was to use publicly available information and use it to make law abiding citizens who have chosen to exercise their Second Amendment rights within the laws of the State of New York look like crazed mass murderers in the making.
The truth of the matter is that just because you can get information, doesn’t mean that you should get it. Perhaps I could get a list of all Georgians who possess a valid Georgia carry permit. I don’t know, because I’ve never tried. I never intend to either. Just because I may be able to get information, doesn’t mean I have any obligation to get that information and treat law abiding citizens this way.
There are a couple of ironies in The Journal News’ actions though. First, there is the fact that those who are most likely to hurt someone with their guns aren’t on their little map. After all, criminals aren’t known for registering their weapons with law enforcement, so they won’t show up on the list.
Another is that The Journal News may have helped shore up why gun registration is such a bad idea. These law abiding citizens are being called out for doing something that is perfectly legal. Now, everyone knows who has guns. Criminals now know who has guns, and can plan their burglaries accordingly. After all, you know who to hit when the house is empty and who is safe to hit regardless.
So, I apologize for these so-called “journalists”. I’d like to believe that most of my profession, even if they oppose the individual ownership of firearms, would have more sense than to pull this. Of course, I’m an optimist who sees the better side of people who often don’t really deserve it. I will promise you this though. This will not happen here at The Albany Journal so long as I call the shots here, nor will it happen at any other news source I have any editorial control over. It was a brain dead move by my colleagues in New York, and they deserve any repercussions they receive (through legal means) because of it.