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Privacy and Guns:

I always like to look for nonobvious interactions between legal fields that interest me, such as copyright and guns (yes, there are some, related to legal liability for distribution of dual-use products). In this post, I want to ask about the intersection of privacy law and firearms regulation policy:

  1. Say that state or federal law requires people to register their gun ownership (as some states do) or register their sales or purchases of guns (as federal law does for transactions involving a licensed gun dealer, though the records are kept by the dealer rather than in a central government database). Should these records be available to the public?

  2. Say that state law requires people to get a license to carry a concealed gun (or for that matter to carry a gun at all). Should these records be available to the public, as they are in some states?

  3. Some bans on concealed carry of guns are defended on the grounds that people remain free to carry guns to protect themselves -- they just have to do so openly, in a holster. (This was a common argument in the 1800s, when concealed carry bans were first instituted, and remains both (1) a sometimes-heard policy argument and (2) a constitutional argument under those state constitutions that secure a right to keep and bear guns in self-defense.) And indeed you can defend yourself pretty much as well with an openly carried gun as with a concealed carry gun (there are pluses and minuses to open carry, but on balance the purely functional difference isn't that vast) -- but only if you're willing to let everyone around you know that you're armed, something that many people are reluctant to do. Is the requirement of open carry an impermissible burden on people's privacy?

I'm particularly interested in the views of those people who are sympathetic to gun controls -- and especially in limits on concealed carry -- but also see themselves as supporters of privacy.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Privacy and Guns:
  2. Privacy and Guns:
Brutus:
I don't want that information to be public, because that will increase the likelihood that criminals will break into my house looking for guns. In a larger sense, I don't see why the "public" has any right to know that I own any type of possession whatsoever.
12.9.2005 5:57pm
Sam Alito (www):
Alito on guns.
Alito on privacy.
12.9.2005 6:06pm
John Armstrong (mail):
I wouldn't want the registration and sales records to be public, but neither do I like how public driver's licenses are now.

To flip over, I would support a ban on concealed-carry, also in analogy: when I'm driving my car, everyone can tell I'm driving my car.

In my ideal world:
1. I have the right -- assuming I prove myself trustworthy -- to keep and (safely) use potentially dangerous items such as arms and cars.
2. Nobody but the (very restricted as to appropriate uses) government has the right to know whether or not I have proven myself trustworthy, whether or not I do in fact keep such items, or the associated biological and statistical minutiae that go along with the associated recordkeeping.
3. When I use[1] such items, everybody has the right to know such items are in their vicinity.

The third point goes for people seeing who is and is not armed in their vicinity as well as pedestrians seeing that cars (huge, fast-moving hunks of metal) are being driven near them. The analogy seems strained at first glance, but only because there's really no way to conceal a car in the first place. The concept of a "concealed car" is far from our knowledge of the world.

But then again, it might be the familiarity with cars and the unfamiliarity with guns that contributes to the problem. Everybody sees hundreds of cars being used safely every day, but many people do not have regular experience with fellow citizens bearing firearms. How many people were terrified of the first automobiles? If citizens are regularly seen carrying firearms, the fact (well, assertation) that firearm accidents and misuse are the exception rather than the rule will be better understood by the population at large.

[1] "use" includes carrying a firearm on one's person with the ability to easily grab and fire it.
12.9.2005 6:16pm
Don Miller (mail):
In today's world of internet search engines and mapping programs, privacy concerns are important about any valuable purchase.

Look at sex offender data bases. It hasn't taken very long before these databases have been linked to programs like google maps. This provides the public an easy over view of their community about where sex offenders live.

Now guns are not sex offenders. But the principle is the same. Give me a database of addresses and google maps and I could put together a similiar overview of where the houses with the best gun collections in town are located. Makes a prime tool for criminals trying to plan their next target.

Some would argue that this would be a good law enforcement tool. There are lots of things used in crimes that would be useful police to have at their fingertips in a database. What other purchases do we want to register with police in case they might be used in a crime. Ski masks, typewriters, computers, laser printers, color laser printers, ropes, duct tape, etc. This list is endless. Ownership of weapons is a constitutional protected right. Registration is regulation and I am not a fan of having my rights regulated.

Concealed weapons permits..... lets start with the a logical premise. Only people who are concerned with following the law and staying out of trouble bother to apply for these. People with little use for the rule of law, or those who have non-societal friendly purposes, don't normally advertise those intentions by going through the CCW permit process. A database of CCW holders would most likely be a database of people who are unlikely to be suspects in a crime. Therefore, what possible reason is there for a State to compile a database of CCW holders, much less, make it a publically available list.

Open carry vs privacy. I don't have an issue with this. If you want privacy about your weapons, see CCW Permit. My only complaint is, show up in a grocery store with a rifle or sword slung over your back in an area where it isn't typical and see how long it takes for the police to show up. After the mass confusion and hysteria is over, expect to be cited for "disturbing the peace". Not a personal experiance, but I can easily picture the scene.
12.9.2005 6:25pm
Ken Alfano (mail):
This reminds me of the content vs. time/place/manner issue in first amendment speech issues. If there is in fact (at least under a "strict constructionist" view) a constitutional right to bear arms, it is not necessarily a right to do so in any way (e.g. secretly) at any place at any time. [Conversely, it could be argued that going easier on time-place-manner restrictions is a questionable deviation from the unequivocal language of the first amendment text.]

I guess the problem could come in the textually stated purpose of the second amendment, which is arguably to keep the federal government accountable (hence the saying that "the second amendment guards the other nine" in the Bill of Rights). So apart from any purported affirmative right to secretly own and/or carry arms, it could forseeably thwart the framer's primary purpose for securing the right in the first place...
12.9.2005 6:26pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
1) Brutus has the right of it. Unlike the case with convicted child molesters (and I have ambivalent feelings about even that) the public does not have a need to know that a law-abiding citizen owns a gun. At best nothing will come of the public availablitiy of such information; at next best, you'll have Sarah Brady &Company holding a protest rally in front of your house, or maybe going "Earth First" and trying to burn it down; at worst, you might be burgled or invaded and forced to open your gun safe by some criminals. Maybe some nice fellows like Tookie....

In addition to the risk of being a criminal target, the known fact that your home contains guns, and therefore might be a risky place to burgle increases the criminal's certainty that your neighbors who are not on the gun-owner list are much safer victims to hit.

2) No, for the same reasons listed above. The license application, after all, lists the applicant's name and address, and in a large city, saying only that John Smith has a concealed carry license without listing his address so people (including, alas, criminals) know which John Smith is being referred to is an invitation for criminals to burgle every John Smith household looking for guns. In such a case, can the non-gun-owning John Smiths sue the government, or the gun-owning John Smith?

3) Here in Massachusetts, even with a License To Carry Firearms, open carry is generally illegal (one can carry openly when hunting, at a shooting range and probably on one's own property - though I wouldn't advise it if your house is in a dense suburb...). The rational is that people seeing a non-uniformed civilian carrying a gun will feel threatened. I believe that the charge would be assault, but correct me if I am wrong. This has been enforced on licensed gun-owners who accidentally "flashed" their holstered pistol (which was concealed by their jacket) while bending over or reaching for their wallet. The penalty is usually the revocation of the gun license, which usually means the effective confiscation of one's firearms, since MA law requires the license for possession.

In the west, and a few other states - perhaps Maine - where a gun is considered a tool by farmers and ranchers and outdoor types, open carry is allowed, in some it is the only type of carry that is allowed. However, with the gentrification of America, I suspect that there is going to be an increasing emphasis on the social preferability of concealed carry. With more than 38 states having some sort of concealed carry law, I would expect to see a trend in this direction.

As a side note, places like Massachusetts and New York are generally not on the concealed carry state list because the issuance of gun licenses in those states is discretionary on the part of the issuing authority - usually your local police chief or sheriff; if he doesn't think you "need" a gun license or he just plain doen't like your looks, you've got a problem. Then, if you really want the license, you have the pleasure (and possible attorney expense) of taking your police chief to court. What fun!

Brooks Lyman
12.9.2005 6:32pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
re: Sam Alito (Alito's America, an anti-Alito website) "Alito on Guns":

So, we are supposed to interpret the Constitution differently for different people, cases and situations? The Commerce Clause has been greatly abused. With regard to guns, consider Smith and Wesson, right here in Springfield, Massachusetts. If S&W makes a gun and sells it to a dealer in Massahusetts who sells it to a Massachusetts citizen - note that all of these transactions took place withing the state of Msssachusetts - by what right does the federal government have any oversight in these transactions? In my book, no right, but the rationale is apparently that, well, the steel used to make the gun was mined in Michigan, and the plastic used for the grips was made from oil that was imported from Saudi Arabia, and so forth. To my simple, non-lawyerly mind, that's stretching things a bit....

With this sort of "thinking," there is no aspect of commerce, and thus life in america, that is not within the purview of the federal government. Right about now, we may as well scrap all state laws &regulations and go with the USC and CFR.

Brooks Lyman
12.9.2005 6:51pm
Huh:
I'm a liberal. I said it. But Eugene did convince me there's a constitutional right to personal gun ownership. I accept that.

I also believe gun ownership can reasonably be regulated without infringing on that right.

I note these positions before I say the following: How come no one I've read looks at concealed carry permits as gun registration laws? Most pro CC Volokh posters seem to like concealed carry, even when it involves getting a gun permit. But isn't this effectively the same as registering yourself as a gun owner?

I don't mind it so much myself. I'm not a big fan of people walking around with guns all the time, but from my perspective CC is a valuable compromise. Law abiding folks who want to carry concealed handguns can get a permit. Violent criminals who don't have a permit can be arrested and charged for not having one. Suits me fine. Sure, an occasional wacko with a permit could haul off and kill people. But the much more likely scenario is that violent criminals will be caught with a weapon, and the state can charge them with a crime.

But I still don't see how CCWP laws are so popular among people who normally HATE registration laws. There's not much difference from where I stand.
12.9.2005 7:31pm
billb:
Huh: There's a huge difference! Gun registration tells the government who has what guns where. (Most/Many?) Concealed-carry laws license the person to carry only and say nothing of what guns they may or may not posses (there are exceptions). The Texas law, for example, only distinguishes between those licensed to carry automatics (semi-auto, magazine fed, non-revolvers, not machine guns) vs. revolvers, and licensees of automatics are licensed for both. Just having a license in Texas tells the government nothing about what the licensee actually possess.
12.9.2005 7:49pm
Robert Lyman (mail):
Two differences and one reason:

CCW permits don't create "paperwork crimes" where you accidentially fail to file a form (or file the wrong one) and thus become a felon.

CCW has no slippery-slope risk. A state that allows you to carry a pistol, it's not going to be banning anything anytime soon. Also, you're identified as a gun owner, but you haven't identified any of your guns; if you want to bury them when the confiscation wagon rolls around, they can't charge you with "failing to account for your registered guns."

Final reason: it's a political compromise that some people would rather not make, but consider to be better than any practical alternative
12.9.2005 7:52pm
Huh:
Well, yes. Registration laws identify the guns rather than the owner. And I can see how people might reason that CCW laws indicate that the state is not likely to ban guns. Finally, the most obvious difference is that compulsory registration laws actually capture a lot more owners and guns in the data base than CCW laws would.

But what if a state did want to register gun owners? To a conspiracy theorist, a CCW law gives the state valuable information about the most hardcore gun owners. Now granted, I think this kind of slippery slope argument's a little silly, notwithstanding the terrible impositions being considered in Canada. But if I wanted to track down the most vigilant gun owners in a bid to disarm the citizenry, the first place I'd look is the CCW roll.

Just saying, CCW is a compromise between gun freedom and privacy. I'd say the concerns meet up right in the middle.
12.9.2005 8:07pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):
As regards to #3, appeals to open carry as a defense for prohibiting concealed carry are, today, mostly insincere. If you think otherwise, you'll rapidly become aquainted with such phrases as "creating a public disturbance", among other excuses which have been invented to arrest people acting legally.
12.9.2005 8:07pm
Justin (mail):
Though I take no position on gun control for the most part, I find it ironic that gun advocates believe being forced to advertise their gun ownership makes crime against them MORE likely.
12.9.2005 8:44pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Justin, I have to say that I was also taken aback by the ready argument of a couple of folks here that burglars would preferentially invade homes known to have guns in them. Not an argument I have seen before, to say the least.
12.9.2005 9:08pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> But the much more likely scenario is that violent criminals will be caught with a weapon, and the state can charge them with a crime.

Feel free to look at who is actually charged with CCW violations. DAs ignore CCW violations when they can prosecute someone for real crimes, so the only people who get nailed on CCW charges are folks who haven't done anything else wrong.
12.9.2005 9:49pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Justin, I have to say that I was also taken aback by the ready argument of a couple of folks here that burglars would preferentially invade homes known to have guns in them.

It's sort of like advertising that you have diamonds. (One difference is that thugs might want to have you around to help them find the diamonds. Also, you lose the element of surprise if they know that you're heeled.)

As always, feel free to post your residence as a gun-free zone.
12.9.2005 9:53pm
MM (mail):
As someone who isn't thrilled about concealed carry, but supportive of gun ownership as a whole, I'd like to see that records were kept, but fairy arduous to get to (outside of law enforcement).

Something along the lines of giving citizens the ability to find out if a particular person has a valid license if the seeker shows up in person at the office of the issuing authority, pays for the staff time to search the database and for any related printing/copying costs.

That way the burden is enough that busybodies or petty thugs likely won't have the energy to bother, but if you wonder about your drunken neighbor who wanders around with a sidearm at all times, you can find out if he's legit.

As for Eugene's point 3 and my above comment about CC ambivalence, I don't really have an answer, as people wandering around flashing guns tends to cause a lot of alarm, so it would be fairly onerous if I wanted to carry a gun on my hip at all times (we'll leave aside the psychological implications of this for the time being). But is seeing that and making the rational decision to ignore it or leave better than wondering if the drunken obnoxious college kid at the pool table has a gun hidden in that bulge under his coat?
12.9.2005 11:05pm
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):

As a side note, places like Massachusetts and New York are generally not on the concealed carry state list because the issuance of gun licenses in those states is discretionary on the part of the issuing authority
There are essentially three types of concealed carry systems in the US (four if you consider prohibition a system). The most restrictive is the one in New York and Massachusetts among others. It is often referred to as "may issue" because the issuing authority does not need a justification to deny a permit. The next step up is "shall issue" which says that the issuing authority can only deny a permit if they have a legitimate reason. The last is the unregulated concealed carry used in Vermont and Alaska.

The 38 states (soon to be 39) use a mixture of these systems. Many of these states have gone from "may" to "shall" in the past decade. This is mostly because of concerns over corruption and civil liberties issues with the may issue system. A major factor behind this reform has been the release of may-issue concealed carry permit holder information. In some areas (often urban) the only people getting permits were political figures, large campaign contributors, and other cronies. Without public access to the list, you couldn't expose this corruption.

I agree that general firearms registrations and permits should not be made public. It would be like releasing a shopping list of home invaders.
12.10.2005 12:28am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Andy Freeman,

I would've thought the main difference was that diamonds are not a lethal weapon — not unless present in really improbable quantities. In any case, it's certainly been argued many, many times that one of the benefits of gun ownership is that people will be less likely to invade a home if they think there might be armed people defending it. This latest line of argument is that the proven presence of guns in a home is a positive incentive to break in.

In your place, I'd revert to the previous and much more plausible argument, but please yourself.
12.10.2005 1:10am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Michelle: I'm not sure whether publicizing who owns a gun will indeed increase burglaries aimed at stealing the guns. But I take it that the argument is that criminals are much less likely to rob a house that contains guns when they think the house is occupied, but perhaps somewhat more likely to rob the house when they're pretty confident that it's unoccupied.
12.10.2005 1:35am
Matt22191 (mail):
Huh:

I'd point out one other important distinction between CCW permits and registration: Obtaining a CCW permit is entirely voluntary. If you're deeply concerned that the police may someday use the list of CCW licensees to confiscate guns, you can simply forego the CCW license. I'm not thrilled about people having to face that dilemma, but it's a far cry from not being able even to own a gun lawfully unless the government knows about it, and knows all the nitty-gritty details of the gun(s). And as a practical matter CCW permits won't be very helpful in rounding up significant proportions of gun owners, since even in states that allow concealed carry only small proportions of gun owners choose to obtain permits.

Michelle,

Guns attract criminals, because they're highly fungible on the black market. Gun owners deter criminals because they're dangerous when armed. If a criminal thinks he can gain access to the gun while avoiding its owner -- e.g., by casing a house thoroughly and selecting a time to burgle it when the inhabitants won't be home -- he may be tempted to try to steal the gun. But the fact that deterrence doesn't work in every case, under all circumstances, doesn't mean it doesn't work at all. It's quite reaonable to think that some criminals -- the more risk-averse ones -- will shy away from burglary altogether in order to avoid the prospect of being shot, while others may merely become more careful in how they commit their crimes.
12.10.2005 1:59am
Matt22191 (mail):
Oops -- Eugene slipped in ahead of me. That'll teach me to wander away from the computer in the midst of composing a comment!
12.10.2005 2:03am
Matt22191 (mail):
Come to think of it, here's a real-life example to help illustrate the point. My father was a gunsmith and small-volume gun dealer. Naturally his shop contained quite a few guns, and lots of people knew that. A couple of punks burgled the shop late one night. It would've been easier for the thieves to have gained access to the guns when the shop was open, but that of course would've meant confronting Dad, who I'm sure they realized was likely to be armed. They opted instead to commit their crime at a time when they were sure no one was "home." Were they deterred from burglary? No. But were they deterred from robbery? Perhaps. Would they have conducted the burglary if they'd thought Dad was, say, sleeping in the shop at the time? I don't know about those particular thieves, but I suspect that some burglars wouldn't have.
12.10.2005 2:14am
Visitor Again:
I have never owned a handgun (as opposed to rifles), but the woman I've shared life with for 16 years has both a handgun and a shotgun under the bed. We live in a fairly high crime area near the Los Angeles Coliseum. The weapons were bought in the 70s in Los Angeles, and both were registered at time of purchase. She is African-American, and I have found that most of her family and friends also own handguns. She is not a lawyer, and she has no real interest in the gun issue (although she might if someone tried to take her guns away).

I asked her whether she minded if people knew she owned weapons. She said it's nobody's business. I said, but the government knows. She said they aren't going around telling everyone. I asked her if she had any particular reason for saying it was nobody's business. She said, if it's known you own guns, it's one of the best ways to get burglarized. That came out without any real prompting, from a woman who is not active on the gun issue, and so I have to think it is not a new argument or a creative one.

I see two reasons for owning firearms: 1. to protect against criminals, including lawless law enforcement officers; 2. to engage in resistance or revolution against an oppressive government. Because of the second, I oppose any kind of registration requirement. An oppressive government will compare its lists of gun registrants and of political subversives and move against those who are on both lists.

By the way, openly carrying a handgun in public in Los Angeles would involve a high risk of signing your own death warrant. The LAPD believes in slippery slopes and nipping things in the bud.
12.10.2005 6:01am
Visitor Again:
I listed two reasons for owning firearms--protecting against crime and resisting or revolting against an oppressive government. I recognize there are other reasons--collecting them as a hobby and shooting them as a sport--but they don't apply to me.
12.10.2005 6:18am
David M. Nieporent (www):
In any case, it's certainly been argued many, many times that one of the benefits of gun ownership is that people will be less likely to invade a home if they think there might be armed people defending it. This latest line of argument is that the proven presence of guns in a home is a positive incentive to break in.
Michelle, I think it's Secret Ownership > Open Ownership > No Ownership.

Secret Ownership is best, because it creates uncertainty on the part of a criminal, and uncertainty makes planning difficult. Open Ownership will deter burglaries _when people are home_, but incentivize them when people are not. And of course no ownership will allow people to freely burglarize the house whenever they choose.
12.10.2005 7:22am
Student stipend socialist (mail):
This is an easy question. I want to ban all gun ownership. One way for me to move forward on this is to create more panic about guns. I support making gun ownership data fully public. Then I can use my camarads in the news media to camp outside of gun owners houses and imply that gun owners are dangerous, no one needs a gun, and others are at risk by living next to a gun owner, etc.

This will help stigmatize gun ownership, will discourage new potential owners, etc.

The privacy argument is a red herring. I want privacy for activity I support. I want full exposure for activity I disapprove of.

SSS
12.10.2005 10:20am
James Bowie (mail):
Re number 3, "Some bans on concealed carry of guns are defended on the grounds that people remain free to carry guns to protect themselves -- they just have to do so openly, in a holster." In the southern county where I grew up there were two, mostly unenforced, ordinances. One prohibited concealed carry and the other forbade the "wanton and willful display of a weapon."
12.10.2005 10:41am
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):

Open Ownership will deter burglaries _when people are home_, but incentivize them when people are not.
I believe John Lott's work has shown exactly this trend with conceal carry law as well. Violent crime goes down because of the increased risk associated with it, but property crime goes up because the thieves are still going to steal.
12.10.2005 12:19pm
Pete Freans (mail):
If a woman's choice to evacuate her baby falls within the zone of privacy, I imagine a creative argument is possible regarding gun ownership. I have always believed that an illegal and unconstitutional confiscation and elimination of firearms in this country would be a gradual one (as history has shown). The above disclosure requirements are a subtle but crucial first step toward those aims.

I am however very comfortable with the idea that criminals, who seek to harm my family or me, know that I am carrying a firearm. I realize that all humans are capable of the most egregious acts and there are small minorities of criminals that are not deterred by legitimate gun owners. They are usually carrying larger caliber guns and are dangerous sociopaths. In non-legalese terminology, they're nuts. Those bottom-feeders aside, most criminals I have spoken to will steer clear from someone that gives the hint of carrying a firearm. That and a confident, street-wise demeanor.
12.10.2005 12:48pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
EV, Matt22191, David Nieporent: OK, I understand now. I'm not sure I'm exactly convinced, because it's not so easy to be sure that no one's around when you want to break into a place, but it's possible. I would think that positive presence of guns would be more of a deterrent than otherwise, but it would obviously depend on the would-be criminal's contacts, &c.

David's point is good: knowing that absolutely anyone might be armed is a much better situation than having public knowledge of who is and who isn't. The more uncertainty, the better for those who actually aren't armed.
12.10.2005 12:59pm
Don Meaker (mail):
I am no longer married. If I am out, with the car, it is pretty obvious that the house is empty. Perhaps if I had one of those evil Assault Rifles, it might load itself and shoot a burglar, but my small arsenal of revolvers, bolt actions and lever actions are not likely to do so.

I guess I could get an inflatable car decoy....or hire a footman. Alas, child support and legal costs make that unlikely in the near future.
12.10.2005 9:23pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> if you wonder about your drunken neighbor who wanders around with a sidearm at all times, you can find out if he's legit.

No license protects unsafe behavior, so records access is irrelevant to this example. (You know he has a gun and you know that he's being unsafe with it, all without any records access.)

We're still waiting for a legit use of gun ownership records.
12.11.2005 2:24am
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
Visitor Again,

Now, be fair. If you got shot at as often as the LAPD, you'd be a little touchy too.

Michelle,

The thing to remember is that deterrents aren't universal. What is a deterrent to some is an attraction to others. Criminals want guns, but they are also afraid of running into an armed victim. How each criminal weighs the alternatives and figures the odds is up to them.
12.11.2005 6:38am
Dad29 (mail) (www):
"Conspiracy theory?" I think not. Canada, the UK, and Australia have all gone on confiscation-binges in recent history, and there are less-recent examples as well.

Having said that, Wisconsin is about to enact a CCW law which will require a database available to law-enforcement types under specific conditions (making a traffic stop, e.g.) This provision was inserted because certain Law Enforcement-types were concerned that rabid CCW holders could react inappropriately to being stopped for speeding. The provision also makes the database unavailable to the public and an LEO which divulges the information is subject to penalty.

It is a silly provision, created for a particular wet-panted District Attorney in Wisconsin--but it DID stir up a good deal of self-righteous indignation from the 4th Estate, which has launched a volley demanding Press access to the database. See: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/dec05/376807.asp

1) The State's ability to interfere with gun possession is questionable, not only under the amended Wisconsin Constitution, but under the 2A. Thus, "licensing" for Concealed Carry is also questionable, under a strict reading of either document.

2) Possessing/retaining information about gun-owners is prohibited to the Federal Government--why not to the States?

The concept that having such information available will result in some sort of pacific outcome is utterly ridiculous on its face. It is only useful to the State(s), and that, frankly, is the genesis of "conspiracy theories"--which are not so conspiratorial.
12.11.2005 10:05am
Visitor Again:
Now, be fair. If you got shot at as often as the LAPD, you'd be a little touchy too.

I'm surprised the LAPD doesn't get shot at much more.

Instead, the voters reject every police-spending bond at election time--and the LAPD wonders why. The LAPD just doesn't get it; you reap what you sow.
12.11.2005 11:08am
NickM (mail) (www):
Why is there the assumption that government databases containing personal address information are available to the public. Some states have already restricted access to driver's license, voter registration, and other databases to those with a proven legitimate use for the information. [California implemented restrictions after a stalker obtained actress Theresa Saldana's address from driver's license records, went to her home, and killed her.]

Nick
12.11.2005 5:45pm
Jeroen Wenting (mail):
1) 2) it's nobody's business what I keep in my home or on my person, and that includes the government.
The registration requirement itself is unconstitutional.

3) see 1) and 2)... and also I've never understood why some states have outlawed open carriage but made concealed carriage legal. Something about a person openly carrying a big scary gun being threatening while having to guess which of the people around you may pull a gun on you from under his jacket isn't? (yes I'm paranoid and proud of it).
12.12.2005 8:12am
Mike Stollenwerk (mail) (www):
1. Open carry is more common than you might think in the United States - 38 states do NOT generally prohibit open carry of handguns, and only 8 of those require any license to open carry (see www.OpenCarry.org). In Virginia, state law REQUIRES open carry of handguns in restaurants and clubs licensed to serve alcohol for on premises consumption, EVEN IF YOU HAVE A CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMIT. I open carry often in urban northern VA near DC, including while shopping for groceries, etc. I never have had problem with citizens or police -- a few months ago 2 policemen walked right past me in WalMart while I was open carrying a full size Beretta 92F in a compression holster without any retention strap. One officer looked down at my hip and rolled his eyes ever so slightly…that was it. Read about more open carry stories from the different states at www.OpenCarry.org.

2. Privacy issues are important for gun owners. There is a lot of talk here about driver's license data being public information - but that's already illegal under the federal Driver's Privacy Protection Act. Gun license data is often public. The upside to this is that this data is leveraged effectively by pro-gun groups to advance gun rights by direct mail solicitation and grass roots organization. The down side is that some states, like VA, make the whole license application public - releasing confidential info like SSNs, dates of birth, citizenship/immigration data, etc. This should be stopped - its a no-brainer.

3. Finally, SSN privacy. Many states unlawfully demand gun owner SSNs in gun transfer screening and/or applications for gun carry licenses in violation of Section 7 of the Federal Privacy Act. Adding insult to injury, many states deny gun trasfer approval and gun licenses to persons without SSNs assigned to them, ignoring the fact that no federal law requires Amercians to obtain assignment of live or carry a gun in teh United States.

My ongoing SSN/gun rights lawsuit (Stollenwerk v. Miller et al., Docket No. 04-5510, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA) now challenges PA's SSN disclosure requirements for both transfers and licensing. The lawsuit was filed under Section 1983 of the federal Civil Rights Act to vindicate gun owners' "privacy rights as protected by the federal Privacy Act of 1974, Pub. L. 93-579, 88 Stat. 1896, 2194, 5 U.S.C. 552a (note), the Second and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 1 and 21 of Pennsylvania's State Constitution."

So far so good, but things are getting hot and heavy and more money is needed to win in district court and then prevail on a likely appeal. If this lawsuit prevails, SSN disclosures to gun dealers and Sheriffs will become optional and all LTCF holders will be able to get a new LTCF without their SSN printed upon it. Additionally, the ruling would provide persuasive case law authority to fix other states' abuses of gun owner SSN privacy rights, and allow the federal courts in Pennsylvania to explicitly recognize Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution as providing an individual right to bear arms - something that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court already did in Ortiz v. Commonwealth, 681 A.2d 152, 156 (Pa. 1996) holding that the "ownership of firearms is constitutionally protected" under the Pennsylvania constitution.

You may send tax deductible contributions to support this lawsuit thru Gun Owners of America's "Gun Owners Foundation." Write the check to "Gun Owners Foundation," and then on the memo line, write "Stollenwerk Assistance Fund," and address the envelope to "Gun Owner's Foundation, 8001 Forbes Place, Suite 102, Springfield, VA 22151."

All contributors will get a thank you note and documentation of the **tax deductible** status of their contribution from Gun Owners Foundation which keeps your personal information confidential, even from me.

NOTE: Hurry and make your contributions now for the 2005 tax year!
12.12.2005 9:06am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
1. With respect to Professor Volokh's statement:
And indeed you can defend yourself pretty much as well with an openly carried gun as with a concealed carry gun (there are pluses and minuses to open carry, but on balance the purely functional difference isn't that vast) -- but only if you're willing to let everyone around you know that you're armed, something that many people are reluctant to do.
One big difference is that open carry takes away the element of surprise. In a state where concealed carry is unlawful or permits are rarely issued, open carry tells a criminal to look for an easier victim. In a state where concealed carry is lawful and relatively common, a criminal really has no idea whether any particular adult, or mature looking minor, is armed or not. Open carry provides specific deterrence; concealed carry provides general deterrence.

2. As another commenter has observed, in states with "may issue" concealed carry permit laws, there is often a serious corruption problem associated with issuance of permits. Santa Clara County, some years ago, had the curious coincidence that 1/3 of all permitees were also major contributors to the sheriff's re-election campaign. Where I lived in Sonoma County, one of the permitees was a convicted felon (child molestation)--and a heavy contributor to the sheriff's campaign. Jim March has done a good job of gathering examples of these abuses around California--and some are quite severe. In such states, having permit information available to the public is about the only way to demonstrate the corrupt nature of the process. I don't see the need for these records to be public in states that have a clearly written law defining who can get a permit.

3. I understand the discomfort that some people have with making permit information public. Realistically, however, the vast majority of all criminal attacks are random, or involve criminals who aren't long-term planners. Criminals don't bother to find out if you have a permit to carry or not. The only circumstance where this might be a real issue would be if someone was planning to murder you--and if they are this organized, they aren't going to get close enough to you for a concealed weapon to help any. They will use a rifle. Fortunately, crimes this methodical and organized aren't common.
12.12.2005 11:33am
Ofc. Krupke (mail) (www):
Dad29,

I'm not sure how the law you cite is worded, can think of instances where I would want CCW rosters available to law enforcement, and it's nothing to do with fear of a "rabid CCW holders".

For instance (and this has happened), if I stop someone who is carrying a weapon but tells me they forgot their permit at home, I would like to be able to have some verification of their status, so I'm not put in the position of deciding whether to possibly arrest an innocent law-abiding CCW holder who has just made a careless error, or possibly letting an armed criminal who has just fed me a fairy tale go on his way.
12.12.2005 11:55am
Neal Lang (mail):
Alito on guns.

Judge Alito's take on what types of weapons are protected by the 2nd Amendment confirms exactly with the only precedencts on point:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. From: UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

Machine guns and "assault rifles" are "part of the ordinary military equipment" of any army, and therefore, according the Reynold's court, protected by the 2nd Amendment. Of course, short-barreled shotguns are, as well. However, as no one, even the NRA, represented Miller's position before the Supremes, no evidence to the contrary was submitted.
Alito on privacy.

Of course, there is no "general privacy right" expressed in the Constitution. In any event, even if such did exist, it could never be used to harm to another person.
12.12.2005 2:04pm
Neal Lang (mail):
To flip over, I would support a ban on concealed-carry, also in analogy: when I'm driving my car, everyone can tell I'm driving my car.

The problem with your analogy is that driving is a "privilege". Bearing arms is a "right"! Please don't confuse the two. Judging from the balance of your comments you apparently have.
12.12.2005 2:16pm
Neal Lang (mail):
If there is in fact (at least under a "strict constructionist" view) a constitutional right to bear arms, it is not necessarily a right to do so in any way (e.g. secretly) at any place at any time.

I believe the phrase "shall not be infringed" defines the limits of government action in the area of how one "keeps and bears their arms". The extent to which government may control the "use" of firearms is to sanction their criminal use to harm others.
12.12.2005 2:21pm
Neal Lang (mail):
My only complaint is, show up in a grocery store with a rifle or sword slung over your back in an area where it isn't typical and see how long it takes for the police to show up.

Isn't interesting that a behavior (showing "up in a grocery store with a rifle") that would have been common place at the time of founding, would be considered so "anti-social" today as to require the intervention of of the constabulary. Amazing!
12.12.2005 2:27pm
Dad29 (mail) (www):
Ofc. Krupke,

The law (yet to be passed, by the way) is written to allow LEO's to survey the database at/for traffic stops. It would seem to support your position.

Your hypothetical case is interesting, insofar as NO argument like it was made by the parties urging the amendmnet (described above) to the bill.

Frankly, if someone "forgot" their permit, I'd confiscate the weapon until they showed up with their permit. Yeah, I'm a 'hardass,' ask my kids. But a CCW permit, like a drivers' licence, is something you just do NOT forget to have.
12.12.2005 2:31pm
Neal Lang (mail):
The Commerce Clause has been greatly abused. With regard to guns, consider Smith and Wesson, right here in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Interestingly, the Feds have always relieved on the "commerce clause" of Section 8. Article I. of our Constitution in their attempts at "gun control". For instance, the National Firearms Act of 1934 does not "ban" machine guns - it merely licenses and taxes them. However, in the Miller decision, the Supremes implied that had Mr. Miller's "sawed off shotgun" been shown to be part of the equipment of the military, it pocession would have been exempt from any such Federal infringement. The leftist Supremes are terrified of the 2nd Amendment - which is why Associate Justice Thomas has insisted that it needed to be "re-visited"!
12.12.2005 4:30pm
Neal Lang (mail):
How come no one I've read looks at concealed carry permits as gun registration laws?

They obviously are. However, until the Supremes are willing to "incorporate" the 2nd Amendment in the "rights and privileges" of "the people" of the various States and overturn all State gun control regulations, then CCW laws and their requirements are the only opportunity for a law abiding person to carry a firearm for their own protection in most jurisdictions. BTW, the Bush Justice Department identified the 2nd Amendment as enshining an individual right that should involve a "strict scrutiny test" (the tests for speech and press rights) for any law impacting it.
12.12.2005 6:27pm
Neal Lang (mail):
Feel free to look at who is actually charged with CCW violations. DAs ignore CCW violations when they can prosecute someone for real crimes, so the only people who get nailed on CCW charges are folks who haven't done anything else wrong.

Although rarely used by Clinton US Attorneys, the Federal felon in possession laws and the possession in the commission of a crime (drug dealing, robbery, etc.) laws can really extend a perps stay at the "grey bar hotel". Some states, such as Florida, have added penalty multipliers for possession/use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Carrying can add 5 to 10 years; discharge can add 10 to 20 years; and shooting someone can add 20 to life - to the standard sentencing guidelines for a felony.
12.12.2005 7:08pm
Neal Lang (mail):
That way the burden is enough that busybodies or petty thugs likely won't have the energy to bother, but if you wonder about your drunken neighbor who wanders around with a sidearm at all times, you can find out if he's legit.

CCW or not, your neighbor has no "license" to possess a firearm while drunk. If you observe anyone who is "under the influence" and armed, it is your duty to contact the authorities and let them sort it out.
12.12.2005 7:58pm
Neal Lang (mail):
In the southern county where I grew up there were two, mostly unenforced, ordinances. One prohibited concealed carry and the other forbade the "wanton and willful display of a weapon."

Ah, the infamous "Catch 22"!
12.12.2005 8:03pm
Neal Lang (mail):
I believe John Lott's work has shown exactly this trend with conceal carry law as well. Violent crime goes down because of the increased risk associated with it, but property crime goes up because the thieves are still going to steal.

74% of the burglars surveyed said they "avoid houses when people are home in that they fear being shot". From: Professors James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi conducted in-depth interviews with 1,874 imprisoned felons in the states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada and Oklahoma between August, 1982, and January, 1983 under a grant from the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Justice Department.

Another benefit of "Open Ownership" - a more polite society.
12.12.2005 8:12pm
Neal Lang (mail):
The registration requirement itself is unconstitutional.

Only if you are a criminal (5th Amendment Rights), according to Supremes in the case involving Chicago's registration requirement. Criminal can't be required to register their firearms - and the non-criminal may forced to report all the firearms they to government. Obviously firearms registration isn't about "crime control"!
12.12.2005 8:28pm
Neal Lang (mail):
For instance (and this has happened), if I stop someone who is carrying a weapon but tells me they forgot their permit at home, I would like to be able to have some verification of their status, so I'm not put in the position of deciding whether to possibly arrest an innocent law-abiding CCW holder who has just made a careless error, or possibly letting an armed criminal who has just fed me a fairy tale go on his way.

How would you handle a similar situation where you stop a driver who claims he left his operators license at home? In some states the fact the errant driver was listed as someone with a license in good standing on State computerize recors wouldn't prevent his arrest and the impoundment of his vehicle.
12.12.2005 8:47pm