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"If Gun Rights Are Civil Rights,"

asks Andrew Sullivan in a post titled "The Gun Closet," "why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one?"

Am I missing some subtle argument here? Taking the question at face value, the answer is so obvious that it's hard to see what the force of the question might be.

Let's begin with the apparent referent of "The Gun Closet." Andrew Sullivan, I take it, believes that sexual autonomy rights are civil rights, but surely no-one would respond to a newspaper's publishing the names of known homosexuals with "If [sexual autonomy] rights are civil rights, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they [exercise them]?"

The answer is obvious: People who exercise their civil rights sometimes face discrimination or ostracism, at least in certain circles, if the exercise of the rights were to become known. That's why some people feel the need to hide the fact that they are gay. (Maybe they would nonetheless benefit in the long term from coming out of the closet, and maybe society would be better off as a result; but we'd think it strange to ask why they'd feel the need to stay in the closet.)

Likewise as to abortion rights, rights to use contraceptives, rights to speak anonymously, and the like. And likewise as to gun rights: In certain circles, owning a gun, or having a licensed to carry a gun concealed, is frowned on, and may lead to various social and professional repercussions. Perhaps such information should nonetheless be a matter of public record for various reasons, even if information about one's sexual autonomy or abortion history is not. But such an argument would have little to do with whether gun rights are civil rights; one may want to keep private the exercise of one's civil rights at least as much as one wants to keep private other behavior.

Am I missing something? Is there some deep irony -- or deep insight -- to "If gun rights are civil rights, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one?" that I'm not grasping?

Thanks to InstaPundit, who has more to say on the subject.

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The Dangers of Newspapers Publishing the Names and Addresses of Citizens with Handgun Permits:

Andrew Sullivan has asked "If gun rights are civil rights, why would anyone feel the need to hide the fact that they own one?" A post by Eugene provides a commonsense list of a wide variety of circumstances in which a person exercising her civil rights would have good reasons for preferring that newspapers not publish a list of all the people in an area who exercise a particular right.

In a recent article in America's 1st Freedom, Paul Gallant, Joanne Eisen and I addressed the controversy of newspapers publishing lists of people with handgun permits. We discuss various ways in which the publication can assist criminals. One newspaper which was considering publishing a list was The News Sentinel of Fort Wayne, Indiana:

When the newspaper surveyed its readers, the paper was informed of a situation in which one licensee was living a reclusive, secretive life because of fear of a violent ex-spouse. If the paper published the CHL [concealed handgun license] list, the woman's life would be endangered. The newspaper's final decision was in favor of the immediate safety of that one woman, and thus against publishing the list.
Victims who are hiding from violent stalkers are one group of people with handgun licenses who have a special need for confidentiality; another group is retired police officers, who are at risk of being targeted by revenge-minded criminals.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The Dangers of Newspapers Publishing the Names and Addresses of Citizens with Handgun Permits:
  2. "If Gun Rights Are Civil Rights,"
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