When the Journal News in New York’s Westchester County decided to publish the identities of gun permit holders in two counties – information it was legally able to obtain in New York but beyond the reach of Washington State news agencies – it ignited a backlash that seems to have surprised the editor and publisher, which suggests neither is half as smart as they apparently think they are.
This smug cheap shot at the privacy of gun owners in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy is embarrassing to those professional journalists who have devoted their lives to the public’s right to know. Such seasoned veterans try hard to not allow their personal prejudices trump common sense; just because something may be legal does not make it right, or even sensible.
“For too long,” Levinson wrote, “most members of the legal academy have treated the Second Amendment as the equivalent of an embarrassing relative, whose mention brings a quick change of subject to other, more respectable, family members.”
Far too many people who make a living by the First Amendment believe they have some special dispensation to demonize the Second and those who hold that one tenet of the Bill of Rights is equal to the others. Liberal disdain for guns and anyone who owns them floated to the top of this intellectual sewage treatment pond in the pages of the Journal News, which now appears to be as paranoid as the they would have us all believe every gun owner is, because they’ve hired armed security to protect them from the righteously offended firearms owners they have offended.
Thousands of private citizens have been “outed” and possibly exposed to danger of home burglary or home invasion, to say nothing of social ostracism, public scorn and ridicule. These private citizens have committed no crimes, have not appeared at public meetings or done anything else to place themselves in the public eye. Contrary to what the Journal News management may believe, the public does not have a right to invade the privacy of any citizen and the mere exercise of a civil right is hardly newsworthy.
The Sandy Hook tragedy has brought out the worst in many who call themselves journalists and news people. NBC’s David Gregory’s exercise of monumental arrogance and showboating with the 30-round magazine has been discussed at length.
This column also mentioned the violent ramblings of retired columnist Donald Kaul in the Des Moines Register the other day, a vitriolic rant that might also brush up against a law against threatening members of Congress. For the record, here’s what Kaul wrote:
• Repeal the Second Amendment, the part about guns anyway. It’s badly written, confusing and more trouble than it’s worth. It offers an absolute right to gun ownership, but it puts it in the context of the need for a “well-regulated militia.” We don’t make our militia bring their own guns to battles. And surely the Founders couldn’t have envisioned weapons like those used in the Newtown shooting when they guaranteed gun rights. Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.
• Declare the NRA a terrorist organization and make membership illegal. Hey! We did it to the Communist Party, and the NRA has led to the deaths of more of us than American Commies ever did. (I would also raze the organization’s headquarters, clear the rubble and salt the earth, but that’s optional.) Make ownership of unlicensed assault rifles a felony. If some people refused to give up their guns, that “prying the guns from their cold, dead hands” thing works for me.
• Then I would tie Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, our esteemed Republican leaders, to the back of a Chevy pickup truck and drag them around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control.
And then there is Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of the Capital Times in Madison, Wis. His history of the founding of the National Rifle Association is, well, factually challenged. He writes that the organization was born in 1871 “when a group of hunting enthusiasts became alarmed at how America’s young people, only a few years after the Civil War, could no longer shoot straight and had little knowledge about guns. So they formed the NRA and dedicated it to firearms education, marksmanship and the sport of recreational shooting.”
The NRA was founded by former Union officers, “Dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops,” according to the organization’s own website. It was the brainchild of Gen. George Wingate and Col. William C. Church, and the first NRA president was Gen. Ambrose Burnside. The NRA’s “primary goal” was to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”
Albany, N.Y. Times Union editor Bill Federman had some interesting comments, also.
“The reality,” he asserted, “is that an attempt to take even the most basic and obvious step — keeping the general public from owning military-grade weapons — will bring out hordes of wild-eyed zealots who claim they need semiautomatic weapons that are easily converted to full automatic fire for ‘home protection’ against God only knows what, and who also think that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees them the right to bear arms up to and including tactical nuclear weapons.”
That is so demonstrably untrue that were a pro-gun commentary of equal distortion be submitted for publication to any respectable newspaper, it would be rejected as extremist nonsense.
The media demagoguery that has transpired in the wake of Sandy Hook suggests that many who consider themselves mainstream journalists are not “mainstream” at all. Instead, they have revealed themselves to be a pack of rather nasty-minded elitists whose social bigotry against millions of other citizens with different values is the stuff of earlier generations who donned white sheets or brown shirts and hid their prejudice behind the flimsy sham of piety and the political correctness of the era.
Who is more insidious to the freedoms of speech, press and other civil rights? The person who owns a dozen firearms and has harmed nobody, or the person with a vocabulary of ten thousand words who exploits tragedy to demonize an entire social class and would judge them by the actions of a single crazy person?
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