In the past, I had vague fears about what such lists could be used for, but my fears were always aimed toward the group that held civil control. Now I am struck with how easy it is for the $FANATICAL_CAUSE down the street to obtain such a list. Such freedom of information is dangerous.
This inability for a government to avoid releasing large databases full of dangerous information to random people is frightening.
Is this the way the world is heading? If so, I have some business ideas I need to start working on.
Let me use the freedom of information act to obtain the database that maps license plates to names and addresses. Next time you accidentally cut somebody off in traffic, expect him to be waiting at your house when you get home, after visiting my website. Maybe he's already had a little visit with your family while he was waiting.
Let me use the the freedom of information act to obtain the tax returns of every person in an area. We'll publish how much you make, where you work, and the names and ages of your children, so anybody who might be interested in such things can visit my website to do searches. After all, information should be free, right?
The only thing that scares me more than my government having complete and total knowledge of my life, is for it to be accessible by any lunatic with a computer. That was a worry I didn't even have when I woke up this morning.
"Let me use the freedom of information act to obtain the database that maps license plates to names and addresses. Next time you accidentally cut somebody off in traffic, expect him to be waiting at your house when you get home, after visiting my website. Maybe he's already had a little visit with your family while he was waiting."
If this person truly wanted to harm me if I cut them off, then they could already do that. By following me to my house and getting me there. Or how about this scenario. My hubcap falls off while driving and the person behind me pulls over and picks it up. I had a vanity plate that the driver noticed and so they go to your website find my address and then drop off my hubcap to my house. When I get home from work, I'm happily surprised and pop that sucker right back on the car. Both scenarios would be possible because of that list on the website. However, one is much more favorable than the other. It isn't the list that is bad, it is the intentions of the people using it. Those people who are going to use such a list for nefarious uses are most likely going to behave in the same way with or without the list.
> Let me use the the freedom of information act to obtain the tax returns of every person in an area.
So I think your example of DMV registrations or tax returns being obtained through a freedom of information act is a bit of a stretch because the DMV has explicitly stated on the myriad forms I've signed that they will only ever share your information with the court when required. Or in the case of a DUI they will also sell your information to ambulance chasing lawyers (personal experience).
DMV data, on the other hand, is for sale in most states, and is exchanged with other states and in some cases Canadian provincial entities as well. Telemarketers, marketing firms, etc all buy your personal information and registration data from the DMV, often getting it in near real time.
It's a safe assumption that if the government is collecting personal information then random strangers will have access to it.
I have no reason to trust them any more than I trust anybody else. Saying, "They won't misuse the data because it's their job not to," is as comforting as "Nobody will misuse the data because it would be illegal."
What purpose would that map serve? The only thing I can think of is your easily-offended neighbors would avoid you and your house. Good. If you're going to get up in arms (so to speak) about private and legal gun ownership and knowing that I own a gun is going to change your opinion of me for the worse, I'd like to know that before I invest significant time into building a relationship with you as my neighbor. If you're going to assume I'm a criminal just because I own a gun, I want nothing to do with you. Another benefit I could see from this type of map is a convenient listing of addresses that burglars may tend to shy away from. No one wants to rob a house and find a gun in their face if there is a house right next door without weaponry.
Do I want this information presented in this way? Not particularly. There's not much benefit to the average person in knowing where legally registered guns are kept, and potentially negative consequences if the neighborhood kids now know that your house has guns they could get a hold of.
I strongly disagree with the intentions of the journalists in this case, and applaud the lawyer for his response in a vigilante justice sort of way.
I can think of a few other potential side effects:
1) Problems for your kids. "No, you can't go and play at Timothy's house, his parents have a gun".
2) Making your house a target for people who want to steal your guns.
3) Potentially being discovered and held against you by employers.
For some people it's a list of gun owner households... for some robbers however it might be a list of homes without guns :P
You could further enhance it with proxies for use of security systems such as 911 calls (can one FOIA a list of all 911 calls?), but with the software industry as it is anyone going to all this trouble could probably make a better return by getting a job or just doing freelance dev work.
#3 is possible but, with what has happened so far, conservative bosses have threatened to decline their workforce if Obama won the election. Nothing has been shown to the opposite.
Many gun thefts are crimes of opportunity/passion like you say, but not all. Most violent offenders don't steal the guns they use to commit crimes they buy them from the black market. Promoting a black market opportunity is a very dumb policy.
An old (circa 1997) U.S. Department of Justice survey of prison inmates possessing a firearm during the offense that put them in jail showed that only 14% bought their gun from a retail store, pawn shop, flea market, or gun show. 40% acquired their firearms from family or friends.  The remainder were stolen or purchased on the black market. I can't say whether recent trends are any different, it's not my area of interest anymore.
The FBI compiles data on the theft of guns through the Stolen Gun File of the NCIC database . I haven't had access in a long time but when I was doing research many years ago I found that between 1992 and 2002, around 1.7 million firearms were taken, representing a rate of 16.8 stolen firearms for every one thousand households. Of those stolen weapons, 687,857 were later recovered by authorities or by "guns for x" amnesty turn-in programs as of 2002. So that means more than one million of those stolen firearms were unaccounted for as of 2002.
: Caroline Wolf Harlow, Firearm Use by Offenders, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2001 (sorry no link available that I know of)
On the flip side as a startup founder making important key first hiring decisions would you want to know about a candidates legal drug use?
I'd be wary of suggesting people of only one political viewpoint behave badly, since we don't know what issue will be the lightning rod in the future. Recording and sharing less information protects all of us.
Interesting, I just realized that political viewpoints is not necessarily a protected class . Presumably owning a gun is sort of a political view. Can an employer technically discriminate against such people? It feels like a class action law suit waiting to happen so I am guessing there is a law out there that gets violated.
Unless maybe corporations set up to run campaigns could somehow be excluded from this perhaps?
If you're a bad guy, you can use this sort of information to find victims. Get a list of people with guns and cross-reference it with professions where the cash-based nature of the business makes it likely that folks have unreported money that can't be deposited in the bank. People who own laundries, tradesmen, jewelers, etc.
This sort of thing happened in my town in the 80's. Someone broke into a locksmith shop and took records of safe installations and re-keying. There were a number of subsequent burglaries of home safes owned by people with jewelry industry ties that went unreported until someone was assaulted when they interrupted a robbery.
This is especially an issue in a NYC or other places where handgun registration is a really onerous process. If you made a FOIL request and also asked for the type of handgun permit (target, carry, concealed carry, etc), it would be an even bigger personal safety risk.
One of the most disappointing elements of Newton was that the family understood that their child had severe behavioural issues and also kept the means for massive destruction within the house. Perhaps a third party could have encouraged the removal or one or the other when witnessing the anti social behaviour.
Lastly, however flawed, the newspaper did present a logic of "common public good" while the response was purely vindicative/vengeance. It's worth noting.
But is this really a matter of something your neighbors need to know? Unless the person is acting irrationally, recklessly, or endangering others right in front of you, whether or not they have a gun is not more important than knowing if they have a lead pipe, a car, or a can of gas and a match. Whether or not someone has a gun in their house doesn't matter nearly as much as if they had one in their pocket.
Where it really comes through is that the police know. If the person is acting in a manner that makes you fear for you life enough to question if they own a gun, that's the point where you step out of their lives and let the police step in. I would rather not have my neighbors call the police saying "freehunter is acting odd and he has a gun!" unless I'm currently holding that gun in my hand.
Maybe instead of a map showing where gun owners live, we should have a map showing where mentally unstable people live. They're potentially dangerous with or without a firearm. A gun always needs someone to pull the trigger, a person doesn't need weapons to cause harm.
I'm sure it's nice to know for robbers as well if they knew you didn't have one. The info was always available but now the ones who don't make an honest living know this.
So let's think this through:
- If a robber is robbing my house, and is armed, and we accidentally confront each other, which is my preferred state of mind? Which outcome is most likely to result in me not being shot?
a) Robber believes me to not be carrying any gun per this map?
b) Robber believes me to be carrying a gun (per this map?)
c) Robber has no access to this information so has to assume there's a 50/50 chance I'm packing heat?
Therefore the greatest risk, if any really comes from this map, is probably the identified gun owner vs the identified non gun owner should the robber (incorrectly) conclude the gun owner is away and the non gun owner is home and needing to quickly steal electronics for instant cash to buy illegal drugs.
It reminds me of the furor that erupted when someone used 4square and twitter APIs to create a map of homes for which the owner was traveling. Wasn't it calked rob me or something?
In that case API access was terminated because the use violated the terms of service. Creating a map to promote breakins isn't something twitter or 4square does. I can see researchers or auditors having a valid use case for obtaining a list of weapons permits but a journalist/activist who just wants to disrupt the peace? Pretty dumb decision by the local authority or more probably one motivated by the politics of some local bureaucrat wanting to "make a difference" and abusing their authority.
It was a perfect example of TMI on the internet, but the difference I think was that people intentionally posted this information, whereas everyone listed by the paper had no choice.
(Of course, if my goal is to steal an untraceable gun for later use in a crime, this map would come in very handy...)
As I understand it, most prefer to do their thieving when there is nobody home, anyway.
The most famous story is of the Clutter family written about by Truman Capote. I'm not sure if they had a gun but the family was home and were intended to be murdered at the time of the robbery.
This map only has legal guns, so it could potentially provide a false sense of safety. Best to just assume and act as though they do have a gun.
I would hate to see a neighbor take a domestic violence situation less seriously because the internet says there isn't a gun involved.
You may not be hired, promoted, graduated, permitted to enter, permitted to buy, etc., ... because you have a registered firearm. Consider what HMOs, insurance companies, organizations, and governments have to say about gun ownership and you'll find your answer there.
Similar downside for...driver's licenses, passports, political contributions, subscriptions to magazines or any other database where it is useful to have records of who does what.
Transparent government is a net positive, but as with everything, we have to be careful with the consequences of our actions.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
Customer complains about Pizza taking too long. Gets in verbal altercation with armed gentleman. Result: shots fired. Thankfully no deaths.
Thought experiment: a customer comes to your office to talk about your product. He's wearing a gun on his belt, and no uniform. Are you more or less comfortable telling him that you won't implement the feature that he says he wants?
As far as your example, I am not quite sure what to make of it. Does not even sound like a good joke, sorry.
This is very silly -- there are plenty of maps to use to find banks, gun stores, gasoline, fertilizer...or rich people's homes.
"Another poster wrote: "I've moved twice to get away from a violent ex. Now I have to move again. I really appreciate you publishing my address. Gee, thanks.""
Edit: added quotes. Some criminal will certainly, without thinking, decide these are safe targets. And statistically speaking, they'd probably be right more often than not. At the least, it's a great list of targets to avoid if you're planning to loot a neighborhood.
And the ones with guns may well be easy to invade. It happened to the mom of that killer last week.
It's not a good argument but the gun fans do make it repeatedly.
A shorter barrel would obviously be more maneuverable, but shotguns must have a minimum barrel length of 18" by law, specifically in order to prevent them from being easily concealed.
Merits of the recommendation aside, it is a very common recommendation made by many, not merely shotgun dealers.
There is a popular school of thought that suggests a shotgun does not need to be fired or even seen to be an effective home defense.
The main argument is that "outing" people in a collective way, as though they are 'sex offenders'( per the text ) is absurd and offensive.
It's another thing to reveal where they live. Sometimes people move for a good reason, and don't want someone else to be able to find them. (Abuse cases, etc.)
Other countries solve this by having ID numbers -- American SSN's are the closest. Those can be used in official documents, etc. Whereas in the US, domain names and other licenses are assigned to someone with a particular name, at a particular address, since SSN's aren't supposed to be used as general-purpose ID numbers, and what other option do you have?
Make a note that I am an expert marksman and I shoot to kill.
Also, please add that I don't own anything worth trading your life for.
this exposes both groups to a lot of risk, really a bad call I would say. A criminal can use the info to take revenge on a media personnel, or rob/hurt/murder/rape someone without a gun.
It seems people have taken on a more Parker Brothers attitude: "Sorry! You get me I get you back".
"A criminal can use the info to take revenge on a media personnel, or rob/hurt/murder/rape someone without a gun."
Just because somebody isn't on that map doesn't mean they don't have a gun. All it means is that they just don't legally own a gun.