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Editorial: Bill strips away oversight

A bill in the state legislature to prohibit public inspection of records related to firearm dealers, owners and permit holders provides yet another example of government attempting to shut out the public while consolidating its own power over people.

After New York's The Journal News published an interactive map with the names and addresses of legal gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties last December, the paper took a lot of criticism from gun rights advocates. In several states where gun permit information is a public record, lawmakers introduced legislation that would make it secret.

Gun owners, collectors and others make a legitimate point when they say that publication of their name and address could make them a target for burglars. At the same time, part of the national dialogue on gun control in the weeks and months following the Sandy Hook shooting center on the lack of information concerning who has access to guns, what happens to lost or stolen guns and how we keep track of the millions of guns in our communities.

While protecting the rights of gun owners is important, that right must be weighed against the rights of others in a community.

Beyond the obvious problem of the public not being able to keep track of who is or is not being issued permits or buying and selling huge quantities of guns, the fact remains that the government is still collecting this information and, if the law is enacted, is the sole proprietor of this information. In fact, the law specifically exempts government and law enforcement from its provisions.

Consolidating power in the hands of government while stripping away checks and balances that are in place to assure the public's oversight capabilities is something that should be a major concern to residents everywhere.

We can have reasonable discussions and debate about whether gun control measures are needed. But we should tread carefully in areas where we are stripping away the rights of citizens to oversee the operations of their government while, at the same time, consolidating power in the hands of that same government.

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