Illinois AG Seeks to Make Names of Firearm Owners Public

March 2nd, 2011

From the Chicago Tribune:

Illinois State Police defended their policy of keeping the names of firearm owner’s identification cardholders private afterAttorney General Lisa Madigan‘s public access counselor issued a letter Tuesday rejecting the state police’s arguments for keeping the information confidential.

State police reasoned that releasing the information would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy prohibited by the state’s open records law and that its disclosure would endanger the lives of gun owners, according to the letter issued by the public access counselor.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the New York Times listing gun owners in NYC. I commented about the publication of the names of those who exercise a constitutional right:

I wonder what happens if the TImes published a list of people who exercised other constitutional rights–say freedom of religion, reading treacherous books, or… not even going to say it.

Dan Filler has similar thoughts at the Faculty Lounge:

If we take seriously the right of individuals to carry guns – but we continue to imagine that states have a right to regulate them – to what degree should licensing information be allowed to be made public?   I suppose there are practical questions.  Disclosure of this information might make individuals safer.  After all, now you know who not to fool with.  On the other hand, it also might provide information useful to burglars seeking repositories of valuable goods.

But some people might not want this information public.  For example, in some social circles, possessing a gun is taboo.  And many protective parents might not want their kids on a play date in a home with weapons.  (At minimum, it might spur serious conversations with other parents about how guns are stored – conversations that might actually be quite productive.)  There might even be conservative gun supporters who don’t carry themselves – for personal reasons – but wouldn’t want to disclose that fact to other gun advocates. Does the right to possess a gun include the right to do so secretly?  Does public disclosure burden the right significantly?

I’ll keep an eye on this.