Second Amendment vs. Free Press

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May 16, 2011

"The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed"

- Second Amendment

Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, is bending to the whims of the media. She recently announced that she will require the release of previously private information from State Police on who is authorized to own a gun. According to Madigan, AP news needs to publish this information, invading the privacy of law-abiding citizens, to have "accountability" for the inner workings of the government. It is a matter of public interest, according to this sunshine loving politician. Never mind about silly issues like the individual's right to privacy.

In a letter acquired from the Attorney General's office, parallels are made between the sharing of information between government bodies (as non-invasive toward individual privacy) and the release of this information to the media for publication. This comparison is inane at best. Despite the Illinois State Police Department's best attempts to show how this was not only an invasion of individual privacy, but an issue of individual and public safety, they were told to produce the information to the Associated Press. Kudos to the ISP, by the way! (Raspberries to the Attorney General.)

The official "letter" quotes as a precedent, a city's (Chicago) request for information from the federal FOIA records from the ATF. Although in this case the ATF "partially denied the request and withheld the names and addresses of manufacturers, dealer, purchasers and possessors from the Trace Database and the Multiple Sales Database under Sections (b)(6), 7(a) and 7(c) of the Federal FOIA...[it was ruled that] Firearms manufacturers, dealers and purchasers are on notice that records of their transactions are not confidential and are subject to regulatory inspection."

So, it would seem that the AP is now elevated to the level of a "regulatory" agency by the Attorney General's office? Surely, a city trying to stop a problem with crime is not on the same "need to know" basis as delivering the information in a tidy little package so any criminal perusing the newspaper can determine their next victim with the same ease that they might decide which classified ad to answer. Although the letter is correct in stating that people purchasing weapons are notified that their information will be shared with law enforcement agencies -- NONE of them were told that their names would also be printed in the paper. That comparison holds no water either.

It's ironic that the Attorney General's website features such topics as:

  • Defending your rights
  • Advocating for women
  • Safeguarding children
  • Keeping communities safe
  • Helping crime victims

...all the while trampling gun owner's rights to privacy, putting communities at risk for home invasion, assisting in crimes against women, children and families by advertising who has guns to steal and who is unarmed and easier to make a victim. The Police have taken great trouble to keep the Firearm Owners Identification card information confidential and have resisted following this directive to change that policy.

If you want to support their attempts, The Campaign for Liberty has started an online petition to reverse this decision.

(NOTE: The New York Times recently acquired a similar list for New York residents as did a Roanoke, VA newspaper for Virginia residents. The latter was pulled soon after publication, due to pubic outcry -- but that's too little, too late... don't you agree?)


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