(Article changed on December 27, 2012 at 20:32)
Once again, proud safe gun owners don't feel so proud and safe when their identities are revealed. This week's publication in the Journal News of the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in two New York counties has gun rights enthusiasts calling the news media what they are often called themselves: bullies.
This is not the first time the issue has come up. The only thing the gun lobby loves more than the Second Amendment is an anonymous Second Amendment in which ownership is hidden and documents are sealed. Thanks to NRA lobbying, there is no automated central database of gun transactions with which to investigate gun crimes and get the "bad guys" the NRA always advocates apprehending. Clerks at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives literally write records by hand, circa 1950, because the gun lobby says an automated database would "pose a threat to the Second Amendment." Retained background checks also pose a threat to the Second Amendment, so the NRA's 2010 Tiahrt amendment requires background checks be destroyed within 24 hours of approval including those of Jared Loughner (Tucson) and James Holmes (Aurora). Thank you NRA.
In 2011, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan tried to release the names of the 1.3 million people with Firearm Owners Identification cards (FOID) in the state, albeit without addresses, phone numbers or photos but she was blocked by the gun lobby. Madigan was "willfully" setting "citizens up as targets for crime by releasing their personal information to anyone who asks for it," said Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson as if firearms weren't weapons of"self defense. Chris Cox, then executive director of Illinois' NRA, repeated the charge that armed people were somehow potential "victims"--and wrote the newspaper that the decision was "dangerous."
Then and now it is hard to miss the irony. The same groups that declare no one would put a sign in front of their home saying NO GUN apparently also fear the opposite. In their paranoid worldview, criminals will target people because they have no firearms in the home or because they do. Let's buy guns to defend our guns! In addition to being afraid that criminals will steal their weapons (if government "gun grabbers" don't first) gun owners fear being stigmatized by their employers, neighbors, community, social groups and gun control advocates.
Since owning a firearm is legal, owners also resent the insinuation that they are somehow unsavory, like "registered sex offenders." Unfortunately when the Memphis Commercial Appeal published a searchable base of state firearm permit holders in 2009, 70 of 154 state permit holders were unsavory types and had clear criminal records. One man, Bernard Avery, was arrested 25 times and had had a murder charge dismissed on mental competency yet still got a weapon permit. Another permit holder, Reginald Miller, was a felon who had 11 arrests. Oops.
As far as why neighbors should know if other neighbors are armed--one reason is that some parents don't want their children going into homes that have lethal weapons. Many felt that way even before Sandy Hook.