Monday, February 16, 2009

Bad news judgment at the Memphis Commercial Appeal

The Memphis Commercial Appeal's Web site carries a list of presumably every Tennessee resident who holds a concealed carry permit.

Commercial Appeal Editor Chris Peck published a long and generally unconvincing column in yesterday's paper and online explaining that the Commercial Appeal is not against the Second Amendment. He also asserts the paper is not invading anyone's privacy or empowering criminals.

The Web site has a database that lets readers search by name or ZIP code for those who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Tennessee.

Peck defends the action by pointing out that the list is a matter of public record and is available to anyone who wants it.

But he fails to give a compelling argument for publishing the list and neatly avoids the elephant in the room - the socially intimidating effect of disseminating the information. There are a lot of people who are openly anti-gun and against the Second Amendment and putting this list into their hands assures that they will do their level best to take out their fear of guns on any neighbor, acquaintance, employee, or relative whose name they recognize.

Here are a couple of examples Peck trotted out:

A mom might now check the list to see if the parents at her kid's sleep-over next door had a concealed weapon permit. If so, maybe it would be worth talking to them to make sure the gun is locked up.

A school official, concerned about whether teachers were bringing guns onto school grounds, might check the list to see whether anyone on the staff has a permit to carry, and then have a discussion about it.

For the record, I don't have a concealed carry permit at the moment. I had one in Indiana for close to 20 years, but it lapsed about the time I moved to Arkansas. I practically never carried a gun in Indiana, but I liked having the option. I am in the process of obtaining one from my new home state because I believe in following the law, because I see it as part of being a responsible gun owner and because I believe we all have a right and a duty to self-defense.

But I am also keenly aware that many with whom I come into contact would pre-judge me on the basis of their irrational fear of guns if they knew I had a CCW permit. As far as I'm concerned, nobody needs to know whether I have a CCW permit except the issuing agency and people with whom I choose to share that information. I don't care to be "outed" by some paranoid do-gooder who can't see the line between legitimate news and singling people out for harassment.

I would be a lot less suspicious of Chris Peck's motives if his name were on the list. But it isn't.

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