Baltimore Sun Editor Wants Searchable Database of Gun Owners

Tricia Bishop, the deputy editorial page editor at Baltimore Sun, also writes a biweekly column. Bishop was impressed three years ago when the White Plains, New York-based Journal News published an interactive online map showing "the addresses (and names) of all pistol permit holders" in two Empire State counties.

Very few others were. Though the outrage over the paper's move was (excuse the expression) fast and furious, the Journal News kept the database up for almost a month before removing it, and "somehow" allowed its raw data to be leaked. It hardly seems a coincidence that the paper laid off 26 employees, including the editor responsible for publishing the map, just eight months later. Bishop, apparently oblivious to the blowback and other consequences, wants to extend the idea to all gun owners nationwide.

Readers will detect very significant components of smugness, arrogance and condescension in Bishop's writeup (HT Twitchy; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

Do you know the gun owners in your circle?

It's inevitable when my husband and I visit family these days that the subject of violence in Baltimore comes up. Often, I'm the one who raises it. But when it came up last week on a trip to see my parents in Georgia, I got my back up. I thought of the 11-hour drive south and the billboards we passed along I-81 boasting guns for sale ("A Glock for Christmas"!) [1], and of the story my brother-in-law, who lives in Florida, told of a neighbor stopping by to shoot the breeze in his suburban driveway, a handgun holstered at the man's waist as their kids played nearby.

I'm less afraid of the criminals wielding guns in Baltimore, I declared as we discussed the issue, than I am by those permitted gun owners. I know how to stay out of the line of Baltimore's illegal gunfire; I have the luxury of being white and middle class in a largely segregated city that reserves most of its shootings for poor, black neighborhoods overtaken by "the game." The closest I typically get to the action is feeling the chest-thumping vibrations of the Foxtrot police helicopter flying overhead in pursuit of someone who might be a few streets over, but might as well be a world away. [2] But I don't know where the legal gun owners are or how to ensure that their children, no matter how well versed in respecting firearms, won't one day introduce that weapon to my daughter.

... I'm not equating gun owners with predatory perverts, but the model is helpful here; I want a searchable database I can consult to find out whether my kid can have a play date at your house. [3]

Before the 33 percent of U.S. households containing a gun (half of which don't secure them) [4] gets too worked up, they should know that it would likely include many of my relatives and their friends. My parents grew up in small town Minnesota, and hunting was a regular part of their lives before they left for other states, and it still is for many they know. My folks were taught how to handle guns and use them safely. But that doesn't do much to allay my fears; it's the simple presence of the weapon in the home and the possibilities it presents that terrify me. [4]

... Three years ago, a New York newspaper published a map online showing who owned guns in two counties outside of New York City. The backlash was swift and wide, with the most legitimate complaints being a fear of theft, which the paper said never materialized [5], and concerns about identifying where law enforcement lived. (I'm willing to compromise by including the officer's name, but not address, in my database.) Much of the response, though, was made up of comments like this one: "so, should we start wearing yellow Stars of David so the general public can be aware of we are??" [6] Gun owners may feel picked on, but they are not a persecuted class. They are individuals who have chosen to keep in their homes an object whose chief purpose is to injure or kill, whether in self defense or otherwise. [7] The rest of us should have a right to know it's there before we — or our children — enter.

Notes:

[1] — There's nothing like taking cheap shots (excuse the pun) at the South to set things up.

[2] — Really, what do you do with this? The woman lives only a "few streets over" from one of the most dangerous areas in one of the most dangerous cities in America. Yet she's convinced herself that it really "a world away," and that "being white and middle class in a largely segregated city" will continue to protect her and her family. Beyond that, she not only believes that she doesn't have to take any additional measures to protect herself, but that anyone in her "circle" who does so by deciding to own a gun is somehow betraying the larger cause. She's telling the world, "Here we are, sitting ducks."

[3] — Bishop is either oblivious to or doesn't care about the problems associated with her precious searchable database, even though they were brought out during the Journal News controversy. They included but were not limited to the following:

  • "Reformed crooks say the New York newspaper ... did a great service – to their old cronies in the burglary trade." They did so in two ways: 1) "Crooks looking to avoid getting shot now know which targets are soft and those who need weapons know where they can steal them"; 2) “Having a list of who has a gun is like gold - why rob that house when you can hit the one next door, where there are no guns?"
  • Law-abiding citizens who previously did not feel that they needed to own a gun felt like they now had to get one to defend themselves. One man said, "I never owned a gun but now I have no choice. I have been exposed as someone that has no gun. And I'll do anything, anything to protect my family."
  • Ex-spouses and others who were in abusive relationships who have bought guns to protect themselves but have otherwise become invisible to their former tormentors were exposed. One such person said, "I had an immediate flood of emotions that I cannot even describe to you ... The first emotion I felt was, 'Oh my gosh, he can find me.'"

But none of this is as important as Bishop's kids only visiting houses without guns for their "play dates."

In unexcerpted material, Bishop would graciously allow a "compromise" for law enforcement, but would insist on "including the officer's name, but not address, in my database." What a pal. What about people who leave law enforcement? Is the "reward" for doing so having your address exposed so that the people you locked up can come after you and your family? And how quickly will the address of someone who enters law enforcement from another profession get removed? Weeks? Months?

[4] (tagged twice) — Of course, Bishop's concern here is legitimate, but there's an easy answer that doesn't require a searchable nationwide database: Talk to the parents of the "play date" partners. Find out if they have a gun. If they do and it's appropriately secured, check your paranoia and let your kid play. If they don't, it's perfectly reasonable to decline. What's really pathetic is her contention that "the simple presence of the weapon" is a disqualifier. Not if it's appropriately secured, ma'am.

[5] — How disingenuous. The Journal News said evidence of map-inspired theft "never materialized." Reality says it did.

[6] — Notice that Bishop didn't respond to this legitimate complaint. You can virtually guarantee that the searchable database would be abused by Bloomberg-brainwashed "activists" to name and shame anyone who dares to own a gun. Leftist teachers would harass gun owners' kids. Leftist HR officials and supervisors at companies would treat them harshly. If they can oust a company CEO over a $500 contribution to a political cause, imagine how much intimidating power they can exercise over everyday people who simply wish to defend themselves. I guess in Bishop's world, since she's chosen to be a sitting duck, everyone else should have to make the same choice.

[7] — The primary purpose of a gun in the hand of a law-abiding citizen is protection. It is not to kill and injure. It is to prevent themselves and their loved ones from getting killed or injured. If Tricia Bishop is content with leaving herself and her family relatively unprotected, that's her business. If others make different choices, other than the concern raised in Item [4], that's none of her business.

Bishop's searchable database would constitute de facto nationwide gun registration — a cherished goal of "gun control" advocates for decades — and could quickly and easily turn into a confiscation roadmap.

The Monday-Friday circulation of the Journal News, which had already dropped by almost 40 percent to about 69,000 when it pulled its gun-map stunt, has since declined by another 25 percent to under 51,000.

If Bishop's attitude dominates the editorial staff and the newsroom at the Sun, it deserves a similar fate.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.