Connecticut state law does not allow pistol permit records to be available to the public. Many states do allow this information to be released, and some media outlets – in a drive to increase page views – have published the full databases including private information simply because it’s “public record.”
Susan Campbell in the Hartford Courant today asks the question if gun permit information should be private. Although written as a news item, I think her post borders on commentary but that’s par for the course. The argument for the mass public release of the information is oddly vague and incoherent.
She references the fact-finding mission of Allan Minter, who has been tracking gun crimes that involved multiple victims for some unknown reason. Supposedly, one of Minter’s quests is to try to figure out why Omar Thorton killed eight after being asked to resign from Hartford Distributors for stealing.
Minter is looking for answers, but news coverage has waned, and now Minter is filling in the blanks from afar. Namely: Did Thornton go to pistol ranges? If so, did he go more frequently right before the mayhem?
Oddly, here’s something Minter can’t confirm: Did Thornton have a permit for his guns? Connecticut law keeps confidential the names and addresses of people issued an eligilibility [sic] certificate for a pistol or revolver. Under some circumstances, the information can be released only to law enforcement officials (as it appears to have been in Thornton’s case), or the public safety commissioner, or mental health and addiction services commissioner.
Campbell may not know the difference between a Connecticut eligibility certificate and a Connecticut State Permit to Carry Pistols and Revolvers, but she should know that within three or four hours, the news media seemed to have not only released the fact Thorton had a pistol permit, but detailed what pistols he owned and where he purchased them from.
Of course, they also posted information suggesting Thorton used a .223 caliber rifle which seems to have come from a reporter’s imagination, but that is beside the point.
Having access to the Connecticut pistol permit records certainly would not provide any additional information as to why Thorton killed eight, nor would information concerning the man’s range habits provide any insight. This information gathering after the fact, is good for just that … gathering information after the fact.
Is Campbell or Minter suggesting all range time be logged in some state database and made public record? Maybe if you go shooting three days in a row an e-mail blast should be sent to your neighbors, family and co-workers with a heads-up.
Campbell then mentions soon-to-be ex-wives have called the State Police asking if their soon-to-be ex-husband has a pistol permit. If the wife – or anyone – is concerned enough to call the State Police with that type of request, maybe she should be discussing a protection order or make a formal complaint to the cops. Either of those requests should automatically trigger an investigation by law enforcement.
Many states have recently banned the release of this information, referencing privacy and security concerns. Campbell continues, with my emphasis in bold.
While making the permit process more stringent, the [1994 Connecticut] law removed from the public record information about people who made it through the process. Talk at the time centered on safety and privacy, with this odd logic: If the particulars of permit-holders were made public, their homes would be targets for robbers, although one would think knowledge that a neighbor has a gun or guns would make that neighbor’s house a less attractive option for a break-in.
Odd logic? If that is odd logic, how about the fact criminals could use the same information to confirm homes they target are not protected by owners who have firearms permits? The perceived danger for homeowners works both ways, and I prefer to keep the criminals guessing.
How about abused spouses who are hiding from abusers and have chosen to protect their own lives by installing security lights, locking doors and windows, installing a security system and owning a firearm as a last defense at home and when traveling about? I’m certain those pushing for the mass-release of these state databases would come up with some sort of waiver to protect their identities and locations … their privacy and safety is – of course – very important. The rest of us … not so much.
Campbell mentions the “people who made it through the process.” Is she even familiar with the process? In her post, she seems to imply these good citizens must be watched more carefully and have their information available online at a newspaper’s website – probably tied to a user-friendly Google map – because they could be dangerous!
Those who apply choose to go through a process involving finger prints, local police interviews, applications, FBI background checks, high fees and even neighbor interviews. I’ll take the odds every time betting those residents are the good guys I don’t have to be all that concerned with.
Articles like these are about two goals of – what I refer to as – the anti-gun media crowd. First, continue and extend the stereotype that guns are bad and gun people are a strange lot who must be monitored. Second is the simple capitalist goal to increase page views with a paranoia-induced gossip-creating web application.