Should personal information about gun owners be available to the public?

A news website in New York has published an interactive map showing the names and addresses of people who hold handgun permits in selected counties. (Under Minnesota law, such information is confidential.) Today’s Question: Should personal information about gun owners be available to the public?

  • Gary F

    And you wonder why the law abiding, gun owning, 2nd Amendment loving people don’t trust the media?

    My neighbors asked me why I have an NRA sticker on the window of my porch and garage. I told them, I just told the bad people that there is a block full of unarmed people, aka, lower hanging fruit.

    • GregX

      Nope … you told the bad people … wait until you leave. Oh wait … that’s what they always do.

      • Gary F

        Then you have no problem with Castle Doctrine laws, right? Cuz bad people always wait till you are gone.

    • Cat

      I’m glad I’m not in your neighborhood. What kind of neighbor would tell their neighbors that you want the bad people to target them, and not you? It’s an every-man-for himself philosophy vs. “we’re all in this together.” In my neighborhood, people watch out for each other and help each other, including calling the police if we see suspicious activity. And, yes, without the help of a gun, we have stopped several burglaries and thefts of yard items. And no, I do not have a problem with most legal possession of firearms, only gun owners with immature and chip-on-the-shoulder attitudes.

  • Steve the Cynic

    It seems to me that the usual conservative logic would lead to the conclusion that such information should definitely be public. If a proliferation of guns is supposed to deter burglars, then those who don’t have any guns, but are counting on burglars thinking they might, are moochers, no? So, making it public would encourage more people to arm themselves. The gun industry’s interest is served by the release of such information, which is a good enough reason for me to want it kept confidential.

    • GregX

      too smug and cynical by a half.
      say yes to this .. and you might was well crack open everyone tax returns and spill all the beans from any and all government records.

      We actually need to find a way to clarify what is “public” in each and every type of data collected.

      • Steve the Cynic

        Read my last sentence there, GregX.

        • GregX

          apologies. truly. … although simply wanting to keep data from the gun lobby misses the bigger problem.

          government permission to collect data (in the public interest) is far too often equated to a right of citizens to see that data.

          We have to evolve a more refined sense of what constitutes share-able data – besides not giving to specific groups because we don’t trust “them”.

          • Steve the Cynic

            It’s not that having the info available to the gun industry would benefit the gun industry (though it would), but that allowing people to know which of their neighbors are armed would benefit the gun industry. They want to normalize and destigmatize deadly weapons, and they want people to worry that burglars will know which houses are “vulnerable.” The more anxiety they raise among the populace, the better their business. It’s a vicious cycle. The more guns proliferate, the more people think they need to have guns to protect themselves. It’s like Sylvester McMonkey McBean and the Sneetches.

  • Bob

    This question should not even have to be asked. The clear answer is no! Does no one care about their privacy anymore?!

  • DK2013

    I feel it should be kept confidential. I live in out state Minnesota and would assume most of the farmsteads have a weapon or two around, and in many cases a handgun. They are needed for protecting predatory animals from the livestock, from destroying foundations and floors in sheds and out buildings. We also may need them for protection. I know that as a parent, I have slept with a weapon by my bed twice. Once when I lived and worked in the twin cities. There is no need for anyone to know whether I or my neighbor have a weapon on site.

  • Cat

    What public good does this serve? I suppose I could make a purist argument about freedom of the press. However, I believe we might be better served by information and location of individuals who have criminal records related to use/possession of guns. Knowing who and where legal permit holders are will not make me act differently or feel safer. Knowing who and where these other individuals are, might.

  • Craig

    It may be stigmatizing, but on the plus side, It’s the type of information that allows data mining algorithms to categorize people more accurately; which improves overall economic efficiency by informing decisions (from the placement of upscale grocery stores to the coverage efforts of political canvassers) thus preventing malinvestment.

    • GregX

      if the goal is to further type-cast people into buying patterns .. yeah this is good data.. otherwise … incorrect.

      We need to stop encouraging mono-type perceptions of people. there are gun owners who are poets and love pink. there are war-mongering, video-game fanatics who prefer yoga over actually weaponry.

      the manner in which marketers use data is wholly one-directional and rather pathetic.

      Over targeting the individual – shuts of growth/diversity in the market.

      • Craig

        GregX, I think you misunderstand data mining.

        Despite the mechanical origin of clichés and stereotypes, an inversion has occurred. Confirmation bias, attribution bias, etc.. prevent people from achieving the level of sensitivity exhibited by computers— unburdened by preconceived notions—which examine every possible combination of massively diverse data for relationships. The subtle examples you cite are more likely to be detected by a computer with access to broad data than a person conditioned to see only about 30 character types.

        • GregX

          mining algorithms are written by people to search for trends they care about based on what people, who only receive targeted marketing , do. just a dumb loop at very high cost.

          and “pure” economic efficiency is a mud-hole of misperception. for one… people’s possessions are driven by whole series of decisions and rationales entirely unrecorded by the database – so presumptive decision models are inserted – most of them physics equation based relational functions … tell me … what is the rate of “entirely rational” market decisions that humans make.

          • Craig

            Let me provide real world example from a recent project which disproves your assertion that people must adhere to rational felicific calculus when making decisions in order for data mining to yield valid results. Some unexpected categories of people (whose characteristics are too numerous and detailed to list here) are less likely to comply with medical directives from physicians of certain age/race/gender combinations, than from physicians with other age/race/gender combinations, even when controlling for qualifications, status, etc… This was an important detection of irrational behavior because compliance is one of the largest factors in positive outcomes; it was not a “dumb loop” and it was well worth the cost.

  • radicalhw

    The Second Amendment and the First Amendment: together at last!

  • Jim G

    No. Common sense should rule here. Permit holders’ personal information should be confidential. Don’t give burglars the addresses where guns may be obtained. As we saw in Little Falls on Thanksgiving, these home invasions can quickly escalate into life and death struggles for both the home invader and occupants.

  • GregX

    Its a categorically stupid idea.

    I will argue to the end of the day for a federal database of every single gun in the US and a federal license (and database ) of every single legal gun owner ( including youths if necessary) . It should ONLY be legal to transfer/sell/gift weapons between licensed gun owners. All transfers of weapons should be registered and verified in the gun-ownership database prior to physical transfer.

    But those databases should not be publicly available for casual browsing – for any reason. All access to the databases should be recorded.

    The DB’s should be available to federally licensed gun dealers to authenticate that a purchaser is licensed and to record the transfer/sale/gift of a weapon to them. Not as a browse – but as a query.

    They should be accessible to any law agency to determine status of weapons or owners, explicitly tied to an investigation – the case file would be recorded in the search log.

    But making that data public is simply pandering to the base curiosity of the mob. This is similar to the license plate data that Minneapolis and other cities police are collecting. While a public agency is “holding” the data – that data itself is private.

    If you can make the case for exposing gun ownership data, or license-plate location data, you can make the case for exposing income levels from tax records, or boats/cars/motorcycles owned by address from vehicle records or diseases in households from health records.

    Publicly (governmentally) collected for the benefit of a better government is an automatic approval for public access. There needs to be a clear public benefit AND a very limited damage to the individual.

  • GregX


    Publicly (governmentally) collected for the benefit of a better government is NOT an automatic approval for public access. There needs to be a clear public benefit AND a very limited damage to the individual.

  • Ann M

    I guess the criminals would have a better idea of who is vulnerable. So it would help them.

  • Eric

    No. This is not about gun ownership, the 2nd Amendment, whether evil doers will or will not utilize the information, or any of the other over stimulated hyperbole being thrown around. It is simply about what we ask our government to do for us: regulate the ownership of firearms. In exchange for this regulation, the data collected should be securely maintained and not released outside the confines of that responsibility. We cannot ask people to submit to reasonable regulation if the government is going to be giving away their personal information. It is a matter of trust.

  • Clark

    Sure but can we also agree to name those who use food stamps, medicaid, section 8 vouchers and other government freebies paid for by the 1% but used and at times abused by the now majority moocher class.

  • georges

    Of course not. To tell criminals where they can obtain firearms by theft is insane behavior, as well as a violation of the citizens right to privacy.
    Criminals are not very intelligent, but they often can put 2 and 2 together and come up with a plan.
    For instance, when Florida passed its firearms carry law, about 20 years ago, in response to the citizens getting robbed in public and their homes, one thief knew that foreigners visiting America could not legally carry firearms, so he figured it was safer to rob a tourist than a Floridian, so he set about robbing Germans visiting the State, but, alas, he got caught, and when the story of what he was doing went on the TV news, lots of other criminals had a light go on over their heads and they too started robbing Geman (and other) tourists. There was a rash of such crimes in Florida for quite awhile. The enterprising thieves would go to the airport or fancy hotels to find their prey, follow them around until an opportunity arose, then do their crime without fear of an armed response.
    Criminals do not want to face a citizen with a gun. They are smart enough to know they can get killed that way.

  • Wally

    Mixed feelings.

    The newspaper that did this is a Gannett publication. One of their papers, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, was doing this decades ago. It was a liberal rag, and was intended to stigmatize gun owners. So I doubt the paper has good motives.

    The Positive: If you own a gun, thugs know not to burglarize your house, not to rob your business, not to mug you on the street, because they might get shot.

    The Negative: If you don’t own a gun, thugs know it’s probably safe to burglarize your house, to rob your business, to mug you on the street, because they’re unlikely to get shot.

    The Negative: If you own a gun, and the thugs are brazen enough, they might try to steal it.

    The Positive: If you don’t own a gun, thugs won’t break into your house, rob your business, or mug you for your gun. Of course, they may do that to take your stuff, kidnap you or your children, or sexually assault you.

    It’s probably safer for law-abiding folks if the miscreants know that many people are armed in a community, but don’t know which, so it’s a crap shoot for them, and they might go roll their dice in another community.

  • Pearly

    Hey look a map to all unarmed homes. Criminals welcome

  • John

    Absolutely NOT. Criminals would then know where to get there guns!

  • georges

    Speaking of journalists and guns…….

    There once was a journalist who wrote op-ed for the Wasington Post. A good African-American Democrat named Carl Rowan.

    Carl got his start right here in Mpls with the Tribune. Then he went on to high positions in Democrat Party administrations, Asst. Sec. of State, etc., even U.S. Ambassador to Finland.
    Carl used to write about how no citizen should have a gun. Only the police and the military should have guns. No Guns for You!!!! old Carl would say to the American Citizens from his high perch in Washington, D.C.
    Then, one day, Carl looked out his window and saw a white teenager boy swimming in his swimming pool. In his underwear. Carl was afraid of the boy swimming in his pool in his underwear, figuring that the teenager was high on something. Which he was. He was high on weed. So, Carl stepped outside……and shot the kid. With his unregistered, and therefore illegal, handgun that Carl kept just in case he ever needed to defend his home.
    Carl was given a jury trial for the sin of owning a gun in a town where it was illegal to possess a gun at any time for any reason (which is how Carl always wanted it to be). Carl, of course, lied and lied and lied (did I say he was a Democrat?). Carl said the gun didn’t belong to him. It just appeared in his hand, by magic, when the boy was swimming in his pool. You know, lies all criminals tell in court.
    Carl got a hung jury. He was never retried. Being wealthy, black, and a high up Democrat Party poobah is a valuable thing, in Washington D.C.

  • David P.

    If you have a hunting license, it is public information. If you have purchased anything related to guns with a credit card, it is information for rent. Even Dr. Watson could figure out that hunting license = gun owner, that a gun cleaning kit on a Visa Card = gun owner.