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Why publishing databases of gun/concealed firearm permit holders is a bad idea

Newspapers and other media companies around the country have thought they were doing their communities a favor by publishing databases of personal information for gun owners and concealed firearm permit holders. In December 2012 The Journal News published all handgun permit holders in 2 New York counties. More recently, it was rumored that Civitas Media was considering an attempt at putting together a national database. This was later denied by Civitas Media saying the released email was poorly crafted and that they had merely considered, but then dismissed the idea. It's also being talked about again by the Journal News who is looking for more information to publish. Regardless, it’s happened before and it’s bound to happen again.

It’s a bad idea for several reasons. Perhaps they haven’t thought through this, or perhaps they don’t care, but these types of databases do a disservice to everyone, gun owners and non-gun owners, except for criminals. I can only assume that the people who publish this information think that it will help, but I have a hard time understanding how. The information being released is personal information for gun owners and permit holders who have given their personal information to the state in order to follow the law. They own their guns and have their permits legally. A database won’t take those away. It may keep neighbors with opposite views on guns from interacting or being neighborly. Perhaps it will keep parents from sending their kids over to another home where guns are present. But it won’t stop any public shooting from happening. And I can’t see it helping anyone other than criminals.

First, criminals that are looking for guns they now know exactly where to go to steal one. They are saved a lot of time from going to houses that don’t have guns. Hopefully those houses that have guns are locked, but for a determined criminal many lockboxes, trigger locks, and even safes won’t keep them safe. With trigger locks and other similar locks that do not lock the gun, only protect the trigger the guns can be stolen and the criminal can take their time working to get the locks off if a safer location. Many lockboxes and lighter duty safes can be smashed or forced open relatively quickly or the locks picked by someone with a little knowledgeable. Even most affordable biometric safes have a backup key lock that can be picked relatively easily. So for a criminal with a few tools and some basic knowledge he has a lot higher chance of getting his hands on a weapon with a list of locations that contain firearms.

Unlike the first group, other criminals want to avoid violence. These databases are perfect for them also because they know what houses to rob where they are not likely to encounter a homeowner with guns. If they are looking for light resistance they can pick and choose based on houses with no guns inside. Non-gun owners may as well put up a sign in their front yard indicating that they have no weapons inside and robbers are free to take whatever they would like without resistance. This may be a little exaggerated, but if I would suppose a criminal looking for a quick and easy score would choose a house without a gun if they had that information.

Also consider determined criminals who have specific target. A stalker, rapist, or other career criminal who has a specific target. Knowing whether or not that person has a gun may lead to a more aggressive action initially for fear of retaliation. Part of the benefit of having a concealed firearm is that it acts as a deterrent to criminals who do not know who is armed. But it also acts as a surprise factor so you may be able to pull your gun at the right moment against an attack and have an edge against an attacker.

In Utah, concealed firearm permit holder information is protected by law from the Freedom of Information Act, so newspapers can’t access this information to publish. I only see more states moving in this direction as people realize that it doesn’t help anyone other than criminals.