Anti-gunners have always taunted pro-2A activists over our long-running battle against gun registration. “What’s the big deal?” they ask. “You register your car.”
Fact is, however, registration nearly always leads to confiscation at some point. In fact, it has already happened in the United States. In both California and New York, firearms that were once required to be registered were later deemed inappropriate for civilian ownership and confiscated by authorities.
Confiscation aside, there are other good reasons most gun owners don’t want to be on a list. One of those is that you never know who might get their hands on the list, and what they might do with the information if they obtain it.
Just last week, the New York State Supreme Court granted a motion ordering the New York City Police Department to turn over the name, zip code and license category of anyone who was granted a firearm license in 2018. Unfortunately, it’s the New York Post that requested this information, and that newspapers could make public lots of information that most gun owners would rather not have revealed.
While the NYPD fought the request to release the names—likely more out of distaste for the actual work rather than wanting to protect privacy—the Post eventually prevailed. The court ordered: “Absent the SAFE Act exemption, respondent must submit the following information to petitioner: The license category and zip code of 'Members of Service' who were licensed during Calendar Year 2018 (either by renewal or for the first time) be submitted to petitioner. ... the respondent may withhold their names. Respondent must also give to petitioner the name, zip code, and license category of those to whom it granted a new or renewal license during Calendar Year 2018. This information covers all licensees who applied prior to Calendar Year 2018 but were granted a license during that year."
Obviously, there is no reason the newspaper needs to have the names of gun owners and what kinds of firearms they own. Yet this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in New York, a state with one of the strictest gun registries in the country. In the Empire State, you can only possess a handgun if you have a license, and the license lists every single handgun you own.
In Rockland County in 2012, the Journal News used public records to obtain the name and address of every handgun owner in the county. Those names and addresses were then published, in full, by the newspaper and placed on the newspaper's website, where they were available for everyone to see.
The same thing was done to all registered gun owners in New York City in January 2013. This time, the perpetrator was Gawker.com, one of the most high-traffic sites on the Internet that specializes in gossip.
Fact is, not only do newspapers have no business knowing who owns what guns, neither does the government—whether federal or state. Unfortunately, between the time guns are registered and the government eventually decides to confiscate them, registration lists can be used for nefarious purposes by those who dislike guns and law-abiding gun owners.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.