Should the government publish the names and addresses of law abiding Americans simply because they choose to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights? I suspect that most Americans would be horrified at the idea, but Tricia Bishop argues for such a public registry. In her column ("Do you know the gun owners in your circle?" Jan. 7), Ms. Bishop argues for the creation of "a gun owner registry available to the public online." She argues that legally owned guns pose a significant risk to the public and to children in particular and that the "rest of us should have a right to know it's there before we — or our children — enter."
Since Ms. Bishop bases so much of her argument on the risk that gun accidents pose to children, it is useful to put that risk into perspective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 unintentional injuries claimed the lives of 5,186 Americans aged 18 and below. Of these deaths, the top three causes were: 2,694 from motor vehicle accidents, 793 from drowning and 363 from poisoning. Firearms were the eighth leading cause of fatal injuries with 87 killed.
Children are 30 times more likely to die in vehicle accidents than in gun accidents. Yet Maryland law prohibits the Motor Vehicle Administration from publishing personal information about drivers and vehicle owners. In light of these facts, why doesn't the writer demand that the MVA release the names and addresses of all vehicle owners in Maryland? Or how about publishing the names and addresses of all individuals with a pool? What about those who own poisonous household chemicals?
Ms. Bishop repeated the often heard argument that you are far more likely to kill yourself or a loved one by having a gun in the home than you are to use it for self-defense. She at least has the integrity to admit that this statement is based on anecdotal evidence because the actual numbers certainly do not support this claim. The U.S. Department of Justice found that between 2007 and 2011 individuals used guns to defend themselves from violent crime, either through displaying or actually firing a gun, on 235,700 occasions. During the same time period, the CDC reported a total of 2,956 accidental firearm fatalities. Even if you add in the 93,692 firearm suicides that the CDC reports, armed self-defense is far more common than fatal gun accidents and suicides.
The reality is that the desire of some gun control advocates to publish the names and addresses of law abiding gun owners has nothing to do with protecting children (or adults) from gun accidents. Rather, this proposal serves no purpose but to publicly shame and intimidate citizens who chose to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
I am curious to know what Ms. Bishop thinks about the idea of a publicly accessible database with the names and addresses of all reporters. Does she think that would violate First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of the press? How about a database with the names and addresses of all Muslims? Or the names and addresses of all married homosexuals? Or the names and addresses of everyone who has attended a Black Lives Matter protest?
I suspect that she would vehemently oppose a public database of those who exercise these other constitutional rights. And rightly so! It is unconstitutional for the government to punish those who exercise their rights or to subject them to burdensome conditions that only serve to deter others from exercising their rights.
Ms. Bishop admits that she wants a gun owner database so that she can "find out whether my kid can have a play date at your house." The message is clear: If you choose to exercise your right to own a firearm, both you and your children should be socially ostracized. While Ms. Bishop certainly has the right to prevent her own children from playing with those she frowns upon, she should act like a civilized neighbor and simply ask other parents whether they own guns, rather than demand that Big Brother publish their personal information.
Jeff Shaw, Catonsville