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December 26, 2012
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Publishers Notebook: Why reveal the names of citizens with licensed guns?

So a New York newspaper last week published the names and addresses — complete with an interactive map — of every resident of its community who has a license to own a gun.

The paper felt compelled to publish the names and addresses of these law-abiding citizens because, according to the editors, they had a right to and because they believed it was important for everyone in town (including the bad guys) to know where the guns are.

The article did not provide directions to those homes, but that’s what MapQuest and GPS units are for.

The article also did not include the names and addresses of those who don’t have a license to have a gun, but have one anyway. They are the ones most likely to use the map somewhere down the road, when they need an extra gun. Bad guys, you see, generally don’t apply for a gun license. The same goes for people who are insane. The paper couldn’t publish the names of the residents who suffer from some form of mental illness because, well, that’s private, and it’s more fun to debate guns than mental health.

We haven’t heard or read much about “mental illness in America” since the horrific slaughter of innocent children a few weeks ago. The Oregon Legislature isn’t reviewing its mental health policies and the president hasn’t convened a panel to examine why so many Americans are wandering the streets when they should be getting treatment (how much of our homeless problem can we attribute to mental health problems?). Almost half of all Americans will experience some type of diagnosable mental illness or substance abuse disorder during their lifetimes, according to one study I read.

How much are we spending on mental health today? How many mental health facilities do we have? How about drug and alcohol treatment centers for people who can’t afford the Betty Ford Clinic? And what percentage of shootings in America the past year involved alcohol, drugs, or mental illness? If the answer is “most,” what are we doing about it besides publishing the names of law-abiding citizens who own guns?

A combination of budget cuts and patient rights (you can’t provide mental health treatment to someone who doesn’t want it) has resulted in a nation teetering on the insane. After all, only a crazy person would slaughter kindergartners and unarmed teachers.

We may be a nation that is fiscally and morally bankrupt, but at least we are politically correct.

Now that’s something to be proud of, isn’t it?

The paper should have applauded the folks who secured permits to legally own a gun. That means those people probably know how to use one and understand how dangerous they can be when not safely handled. Most states require you to pass a written test when purchasing a handgun. And if you want a permit to carry one concealed you have to take a class.

For the record, to spare anyone the time to look it up, I am a gun owner. In fact, when I lived in California, I had a concealed weapons permit and would often have a gun on or near me when I was out and about. I took the class and passed the written and range tests and then had to interview with the county sheriff. I may apply for one here one day soon.

Why? Because there are too many people running around who shouldn’t be, and many of them have guns. I prefer a level playing field. I also plan to defend my home if it ever comes down to that.

I’ve also seen little evidence where you can regulate goodness or sanity. Prohibition was a failure and so is this so-called War on Drugs. Last I checked methamphetamine, crack and heroin were illegal to own. Pick up the paper and count the number of drug-related crimes.

The reaction to the New York newspaper’s “outing” of responsible gun owners in its community was what you might expect.

“So should we start wearing Yellow Stars of David so the general public can be aware of who we are?” asked one commenter.

Another called the newspaper’s decision mind-boggling. “It’s as if gun owners are sex offenders,” he wrote, “and to own a handgun risks exposure as if one is a sex offender. It’s, in my mind, crazy.”

He also called the decision, “highly Orwellian,” referring to author George Orwell’s concerns with our loss of personal freedoms and invasion of our personal privacy described in “1984.”

In that book, written in 1949, Orwell describes a world controlled by Big Brother and the thought police who constantly monitor the population to detect betrayal.

It’s the kind of story we always thought was simply good fodder for an English class assignment. Sadly, the Christmas week publication of thousands of names and addresses of mostly good citizens ought to at least make us consider that Orwell saw something coming that most of us didn’t.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or jackerman@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Dec 31, 2012 09:25AM Published Jan 6, 2013 08:54AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.