The Ethics of Publishing Gun Owner Lists

By | January 6, 2013

As is often the case around the firearms community, there are foolish people who do very dubious things in support of their beliefs concerning firearms. Case-in-point: The Journal News recently published several interactive maps that show the location of every pistol permit holder in three counties.  Everyone I know is up in arms about this, even if they aren’t into firearms, as it is a slap in the face of every firearm owner to be treated like sex offenders.  Talk about a way to piss off an incredibly large group of people who are in possession of  ‘deadly weapons’!

While I could write a book about how mad that us, I won’t for several reasons: 1.) This is an ethics blog, and ethics is what I’m gonna stick to; 2.) Honestly, the people who NEED to read this DON’T CARE about OUR feelings.  Most of them are too worried about THEIR feelings to take any notice of ours.  That is OK though, thanks to my wife, we will address their feelings about this and the ‘protect the public’ crowd should be up in arms about this:  Publishing these maps are incredibly dangerous to the general public! 

Yea, Right!

Don’t believe me do you?  Have you ever seen the sign that points out a neighbor’s house doesn’t have guns?  The Journal News just put an “I’m unarmed, come rob me” sign on every house in three counties that does not have a pistol permit.  Granted there may still be rifles in those houses, but a criminal has just gotten a major tool to help him a.) steal a pistol and b.) pick houses to rob with a low likely hood of encountering an armed home defender.  Also they put a ‘guns inside, come steal them’ sign on every permit holder in 3 counties.  Making targets out of every citizen in 3 counties, if nothing else, is totally indefensible by even the staunchest gun control advocate and does nothing to ‘protect the public’.

The Ethics of this situation are staggering!

This is where I am going to offend everyone on both sides of the line:  This situation has so many ethics violations, that if this were a sport, both teams would be forever banned from ever participating again!  The only way to begin these things is from the beginning, so here we go:

To The Journal News:

  1. Publishing information about individuals that puts them at risk is wrong –  Why on earth would you tell every criminal who wants a gun where he can steal one in his neighborhood?  If you think what they did was right, let’s do some role reversal: Robert Cox over at The Talk of the Sound, obtained the names and addresses (and other contact information) of the employees of The Journal News.  Do you think that is right or wrong?  For the answer read on.
  2. Publishing information that aids criminals is wrong – see #1, then think about this: If there is a rash of robberies in a neighborhood on your map, and it can be shown that the criminal used your information to choose homes to steal handguns from and to choose unarmed homes to rob, The Journal News could find itself in a lot of legal hot water.  Realistically, criminal charges would be hard to prosecute but civil action would not.  In a world where hot coffee is worth millions, just think about the potential payout to families who were robed or (God forbid) lost loved ones to criminals wielding firearms stolen from homes The Journal News targeted!  Wrongful Death Suit Anyone?
  3. Invading the privacy of anyone by mis-using a mechanism designed to protect citizens from government secrets (Freedom Of Information Act) is wrong! – Just because it’s legal don’t make it right!

To Robert Cox at the Talk of the Sound:

  1. Publishing information about individuals that puts them at risk is wrong – While some would say turnabout is fair play, and in this case it shows just how bad what The Journal News did is: It’s still wrong!  It is true that the risk to the employees at The Journal News you created is probably less-than the danger they created by singling out permit holders, enabling criminals and endangering the UN-permitted, but for the same reasons (ie, if someone actually does hurt an employee because of your list) you will not only be open to similar legal issues (and since Robert is a private citizen and gun owner he has less buffer against criminal charges than a multimillion dollar news outlet); but it would also provide feather in the cap of gun control advocates everywhere: “Crazed Gun Owner Uses Hit Map Made By Gun Nut To Kill Journalist Supporting Gun Control!”  Because of the nanny state world we live in gun control advocates are fighting us downhill, so we have to be more careful about working against our own cause with foolish mistakes like this than they do.
  2. Turnabout is never fair play –  Think about it, the only time to use turnabout is when you feel someone has wronged you.   If it is wrong for them to do to you, then why is is OK for you do do to them?  It’s wrong both ways, sorry.
    • My co-commenters over at The Truth About Guns have made me realize the above statement is not quite right – turnabout can be ‘fair’ as it balances the equation of right and wrong (sort of, sometimes) but just because something is ‘fair’ does not make it ‘right’.  (If a drunk driver kills one of your family members, it is ‘fair’ to kill one of his, but it is incredibly wrong!)

This Sign :

  1. Publishing information about individuals that puts them at risk is wrong: Whether it’s a DE-humanizing online map or a witty sign in your front yard, you are still revealing information about someone that a passer-by (read criminal) would not otherwise know if not for your sign.
  2. Publishing information about yourself that puts you at risk is STUPID! –  This is not so much a ethical point as a tactical one, if you point our your neighbor is pro-gun control, then it is safe for a criminal to assume you are a gun owner with steal-able guns. At the very least a criminal who knows you’re likely to be armed is much more likely to arm themselves before coming into your home, costing you 2 major tactical advantages: surprise and superior force/weaponry.

I believe that we (anti-gun control) are at war with the pro-gun control crowd, but it is a social-political war where we claim we are the higher ground while they argue we are not.  We must fight a clean fight in an arena where anything goes (politics) against an opponent who sits back and waits for our mistakes and claims them as their victories.  An unfairer fight I have yet to see, but we will win only if we maintain the high ground and convince people one at a time and over time that the enemy is fear and not us or our tools.  This is ethics.

– Walter Wojcik

See Also:

The Journal News Page Post

Talk of the Sound – Newspaper Employees Map





3 thoughts on “The Ethics of Publishing Gun Owner Lists

  1. Pingback: I hate to say it, but… I TOLD YOU SO! | Firearms Ethics made Easy

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