Privacy and Guns
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh (law, UCLA) fires off a few questions regarding the privacy of gunowners. He asks whether gun registration and licensing records should be available to the public. He also asks whether the requirement in some places that one cannot carry a concealed weapon is “an impermissible burden on people’s privacy.” Eugene writes:
I’m particularly interested in the views of those people who are sympathetic to gun controls — and especially in limits on concealed carry — but also see themselves as supporters of privacy.
Well, that’s me, so I’ll take a shot at responding. Although I am generally sympathetic to gun controls (not absolute bans of guns), I don’t support infringing upon the privacy of gun owners. Often, this is used as a proxy for gun control, and it isn’t a legitimate one or even an effective one.
Gun records should not be publicly available. I haven’t heard a good articulation for why the public needs to know who owns a gun.
However, I generally support government recordkeeping of gun ownership as well as requiring technologies to enhance the traceability of discharged ammo to particular weapons. This might be very useful in solving gun crimes. I would, of course, favor strong protections to prevent government abuse of such data or government dragnet searches of people who own guns.
Regarding open carry laws, I have a hard time understanding the justifications for these laws. Do we really want people walking around with their guns openly displayed in their holsters? This isn’t the Wild West, and I don’t understand the benefits of prohibiting concealed guns. Unless there’s a compelling benefit articulated, I don’t think that open carry laws would be justified against the infringement upon privacy.