Stupidity — The law of unintended consequences rears it’s ugly head.
When the local, Upstate New York newspaper The Journal News decided to take it upon themselves to publish the names and addresses of gun permit holders in their area, I’m sure that some of them felt they were performing a “public service” in some twisted way. Despite massive protests and demands that Gannet take action, the paper has stood by the decision. But who were they trying to target? Certainly not criminals, who tend not to take the whole gun registration process very seriously to begin with. Lawful gun owners? That’s a pretty easy argument to make. But I wonder if the editors knew that they might be endangering the lives of prison guards and their families?
Law enforcement officials from a New York region where a local paper published a map identifying gun owners say prisoners are using the information to intimidate guards.
Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco, who spoke at a news conference flanked by other county officials, said the Journal News’ decision to post an online map of names and addresses of handgun owners Dec. 23 has put law enforcement officers in danger.
“They have inmates coming up to them and telling them exactly where they live. That’s not acceptable to me,” Falco said, according to Newsday.
When this story first broke, there was an obvious invitation for a snarky response of, “what could possibly go wrong?” Well this is what could possibly go wrong, and already has. As Fox News goes on to correctly note, a lot of the guards are from the greater New York City area and commute up to work at the prison. They live in areas with a disturbingly large gang presence, and criminals can read the news as well as anyone else. If a prisoner has a gripe with any particular guard and gets the word out to their friends on the outside, knowing right where the guards live would certainly be an opportunity for the bad guys.
One rather famous former criminal, Walter Shaw (no relation, sorry) was interviewed about this debacle and offered a bit of perspective from the dark side.
That was the most asinine article I’ve ever seen,” said Walter T. Shaw, 65, a former burglar and jewel thief who the FBI blames for more than 3,000 break-ins that netted some $70 million in the 1960s and 1970s. “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?
“What they did was insanity,” added Shaw, author of “License to Steal,” a book about his criminal career.
The editors have also proven that while they may not be bullet-proof, they are completely oblivious to the concept of irony. In perhaps the most farcical aspect of this sordid tale to date, the newspaper has hired armed guards to protect at least one of their offices. I suppose they must think that the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun, huh? What a crazy idea.
Surely all of this must have some of the knee-jerk state legislators around the nation rethinking the whole idea, right? Apparently not, as one elected official in Connecticut is looking to up the ante.
State Rep. Stephen Dargen, a Democratic legislator from West Haven, wants the names and addresses of about 170,000 handgun permit holders in the state to be made public.
Names of gun owners are now confidential, but Dargen believes if people know how many guns are spread across communities, they’ll be safer.
Exit question: Even if you’re the gun grabbiest editor of a small distribution newspaper in the country, how was a result like this not blindingly obvious?