A pair of Maryland lawmakers are raising concerns about the privacy and safety of gun owners after a newspaper in New York state published the names and addresses of gun permit holders in two counties.
The Journal News posted an interactive map showing the details of every permit holder in Rockland and Westchester counties earlier this week. The data were compiled from public records obtained through a freedom of information request, according to the newspaper.
“I find the publication of such information extremely disturbing and frankly, quite frightening,” wrote Del. Kevin Kelly (D-Dist. 1B) of Cumberland in a letter Thursday to Maryland State Police Superintendent Marcus L. Brown.
If a criminal was looking for handguns to steal, such a map would show whose homes to burglarize, Kelly wrote, adding that lawful permit holders were being treated like registered sex offenders.
Kelly urged the state police to be mindful of such privacy concerns when responding to the similar public information requests he believes will be filed.
Greg Shipley, a spokesman for Maryland State Police, said the question of whether the agency would need to disclose a similar list of handgun permit holders was under review by command staff.
In the past, the department has released whether specific individuals have handgun permits, in accordance with the state’s public information laws, he said.
Maryland issued 956 new handgun permits and 1,279 renewal permits in 2012, according to data from the state’s StateStat system.
Meanwhile, Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Dist. 7) of Middle River announced Friday that he was proposing legislation to prevent newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.
Not only did the New York news story make gun owners vulnerable, but it told potential criminals which households might not put up armed resistance if attacked, McDonough said.
“Publications shouldn’t be able to endanger people’s lives,” he said.
But such proposals “present a complex stew of First Amendment, Second Amendment and public policy considerations,” said. Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Dist. 20) of Takoma Park, a professor of constitutional law at American University in Washington, D.C.
The First Amendment allows the press to publish essentially any information that’s not defamatory, obscene or an incitement to criminal activity, Raskin said.
There’s far more latitude to regulate the government disclosure of information than to tell citizens they cannot discuss public information, he said.
McDonough said he had not received a finished proposal from the bill drafters and was not sure of the language the legislation ultimately would use.