Thursday, March 25, 2004

In the comments to the post below I found the following from Linda Seebach:

"I am distressed when people I generally agree with behave in a disgraceful manner to advance our shared views.

Threatening the newspaper's staff members, most of whom have nothing to do with the decision, if it publishes something you do not approve of is beneath contempt.

As you probably know, the Rocky supported making Colorado a shall-issue state, so we have no animus toward guns. And as far as I know, no one here has ever contemplated putting the state's list of concealed-carry permit holders online. We have, however, opposed measures to make the permit list secret (in furtherance of the principle that government records should be open whenever possible). And we opposed a bill to end the sharing of permit data between counties (it lost).

You could threaten us with harm for some of our positions, and the anti-gun people could threaten us for the rest. In either case, the tactic would be thuggery. It discredits your views."

There are a few factual discrepancies that keep me from agreeing with her admonition.

For starters the idea that I or any other blogger threatened a newspaper's staff because they were going to publish something I or we didn't like is an oversimplified & inaccurate representation of what happened. I point this out because of the typical negative connotation of ?threat? which I don't believe applies: in the sense that a threat is a warning then it could be used accurately, but I think "ultimatum" better describes what was relayed than to say we "threatened" anyone.

If an ultimatum or threat was offered solely because a newspaper's intended content would offend, then I would agree that using any coercion beyond persuasive logic or consumer retaliation (a boycott) would be unacceptable in that circumstance. A punitive response (other than the boycott) wouldn't be generally acceptable if the issue was only a papers' intellectual content.

But the issue wasn't about publishing an opinion that I don't agree with; it was about publishing a list of names which in a pragmatic sense could be directly harmful to those whose names are published & in a principled sense would cause harm to the people's privacy. That differs greatly from an op-ed that calls for more gun control. One affects everyone who may or may not agree; the other affects a specific group of people who have no choice in the matter.

Put another way: I don't agree with wearing sandals with socks. I also don't agree with unprovoked violence against an elderly person. It would be unacceptable if I smacked down someone just because of a serious lack of judgment in footwear options, but justifiable if I smacked down someone who was beating up their grandmother. What the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel was about to do was much closer to beating up their grandmother than it was to making a fashion faux pa. & since I don?t think it's "thuggery" to stop someone from beating up their grandmother I have to disagree with that characterization of my actions as well.
Now what was "threatened" would not cause any harm to the newspaper staff if their reasoning about publishing the list of permit holders was valid. After all, if publishing public records is no cause for concern then publishing legally obtainable info on the staff of a paper shouldn't cause a problem right?

But we all know this is not the case. What would be substantive is the loss of privacy suffered by both parties. Now to say that it's acceptable to compromise the privacy of gun owners because the law allows it is bullshit pure & simple. To go further & say that finding legally obtainable info on a newspapers staff is somehow different is also bullshit. There simply is no difference in publishing permit holder's info & publishing newspaper staff info. Neither was accused of any crime or claimed to be a threat to the public & the public can gain no useful insight in finding out how & who doesn't have permission to carry a concealed weapon.

Why would I have done it if the actions in general aren't cool? By publishing names they would have crossed the line from making flawed policy recommendations into causing substantive harm to gun owners. The only way to counter such a direct affront is in kind.
My goal was not to publish the info of the staff out of spite or vindictiveness, but to make the paper aware that if their actions were acceptable then I wouldn't have qualms about stooping to their level. In doing that I hoped the paper would see that if it's wrong for me to publish the info of their staff then it'd be at least equally wrong for them to publish the names of the permit holders.

There simply is no public interest whatsoever in publishing a list of people who have concealed carry permits. The only things such a list could be used for would be to discriminate against people with such a permit & to discourage the more privacy conscience people from applying for a permit. I can see no pragmatic argument which outweighs the privacy & safety concerns of permit holders. & in principle what they were advocating is making a list public of those who would exercise a distortion of a Right. I cannot fathom that a list of library card holders or church members would be seen as "newsworthy" by any paper in this country. Despite at least one reporter missing the point entirely, y'all wouldn't dream of publishing info that's perceived as being available through the Patriot Act, would ya? & despite the name & photo of Kobe Bryant's accuser being widely available on line & in the tabloids the Rocky wouldn't publish it would they? That's cause despite the info being available to the public it would serve no public interest to make that info available in a paper & could possibly cause harm to those whose info was published. So again I come back to an attempt to discourage & demonize permit holders as the only valid reasons for publishing such a list.

Luckily, everybody won: the permit holder's info was not published by the paper & I didn't feel i had to publish the info of their staff. They decided (quite correctly) that their actions would be inappropriate. Whatever the cause I'm glad for all concerned that no info was published.

Now about the Rocky Mountain News:

I'm usually much more severe with their sister publication* the Denver Post. That doesn't mean the Rocky is without fault - not by a longshot.
Now have you or anyone at the Rocky staff really examined the "shall Issue" law we have in Colorado? Have you ever studied the law it replaced? Or did an in depth look at proposals to replace both of them? I have & you're more than welcome to view my conclusions here. The short story is that the "shall issue" CCW is a step backwards from the "may issue" law it replaced. & both were inferior to a proposed but quickly tabled CCW law that was introduced around the same time. & All three are inferior to the Vermont/Alaska style law that was proposed but killed in committee a little over a month ago.

The NRA backed the "Shall Issue" law & opposed the others so to most people they assume that the "Shall Issue" law was a good idea. But as far as the interests of gun owners are concerned the NRA is falling short in a lot of areas. You're welcome to view my previous posts on the NRA here. In fact I'll go so far as to advice you or any other newspaper that if you want to make the NRA look bad in a story you're wasting your time with the anti-gun groups. You'd be far more effective talking to gun owners who are disgruntled with the NRA's tactics & strategy.

But all this is to say that equating support for Colorado's current "Shall Issue" law is not effective proof that the Rocky is not hostile towards guns or gun owners.

You go on further to state your opposition to making the list of permit holders "secret". Now here's the deal: I am not a fan of CCW permit laws. They compromise what should be considered a Right & place undue burdens on those who would simply want to protect themselves w/o having to run afoul of the cops. They're nothing more than prior restraint based laws designed to desensitize a populace as to their Rights. That being said I disagree wholeheartedly that a list of any gun owner who is not a violent habitual felon should be publicly accessible. It's making public a system of gun owner registration & were the objects of said registration exercising any other Right enumerated in the federal & state constitutions respectively then there'd be all kind of hell raised at the idea of it being part of a law.

Let's suppose a law was passed that required all newspaper staff to be licensed. Would you honestly say that this information should be a matter of public record? How about a license to belong to a religious organization? Again, would a public record of whose Muslim, Buddhist, Protestant, Catholic or Hindu be acceptable? Would there be any valid reason whatsoever for you to be able to look at a record & determine whether your neighbor works for a newspaper & what religion they practice considering the state ran a background check & determined them to be okay people?

& the law you refer to about sharing permit holder information is described inaccurately. I assume you were referring to Rep. Crane's HB1205. The bill would not have ended the "...sharing of permit data between counties...": rather it would have eliminated a statewide gun owner data base. Now in the "Shall Issue" law we now have a sheriff may at his/her discretion share info with another law enforcement agency for the purpose of confirming the validity of a permit. That wouldn't have been changed. What would have changed is that instead of 2007 as originally specified in the law, the date would be moved to 2004 to abolish a statewide database on permit holders.

Now why the hell would you oppose a bill that merely moves the abolishment of a statewide database up 3 years but still allows for confirmation that a permit is valid? Did you or anyone at the Rocky staff actually read the bill & attempt to understand what it means? The language is very plain & fairly simple. It's a two page bill that changes the law by invalidating one sentence in one paragraph & changing the year from 2007 to 2004 in another paragraph.

The only reason for opposition to said bill would be if you were also opposed to the statewide database of law abiding gun owners being done away with in 2007. So in 2006 are we going to argue the merits of gun owner registration all over again, or did the Rocky simply make a knee-jerk reaction to what it perceived to be a pro-gun law?

As I've said the Rocky is by comparison a decent paper as far as gun issues go, but it's by no means perfect & I'd spend more time on the Rocky's errors if the Denver Post weren't as bad as they are.

But I'll make you an offer (don't get all happy I make the offer to any & every paper that will listen) if you wish to discuss the situation with publishing the names of CCW holders, Colorado's gun laws or any & every other firearm related issue I'll be more than happy to accommodate you. I can meet you in person, call you, have you call me, or simply exchange e-mails. It can be on the record, off the record or anything in between. I'll be more than happy to publish anything that we discuss here unedited. This is open to you or anyone at the Rocky or any other newspaper so your anonymity can be preserved. & I'll even go so far as to grant you amnesty if your paper publishes CCW holder names & I respond in kind (well as long as you're not the one pushing for it). & to make the offer even sweeter I'll be more than happy to take you or any other newspaper employee to a range & teach you &/or them about safe firearms handling, marksmanship & perhaps most important to your line of work the actual differences between types of firearms.

& in case you're wondering what's in it for me, it ain't the publicity. The way I see it if I can make some headway into changing the attitudes of one reporter in a (& I'm being generous here) paper that's only moderately biased &/or ignorant about firearms then perhaps it'll cause factual articles to be published at least occasionally instead of the usual gun control organizations press releases being printed as news articles.


*Ms. Seebach has informed me that I am mistaken in the nature of the relationship between the Rocky Mountain News & the Denver Post:

"...the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post are not 'sister papers.' They are owned by different companies and fiercely competitive in the field of journalism. Only the non-journalism part, advertising, circulation, printing and the like are shared, but all that is outsourced to a third company, the Denver Newspaper Agency, which is in turn jointly owned by the companies that own the papers."

So I stand corrected.

Another thing that was brought up was that my attempts to differentiate between "ultimatum" & "threat" were unconvincing to Ms. Seebach. Hopefully this will make it clearer:

The word "threat" is usually perceived as an unprovoked & unjustifiable preemptive measure (i.e. "I'm gonna kick your ass"). The word "ultimatum" is generally perceived as a retaliatory warning dependent upon another's action (i.e. "if you don't drop the gun I'll shoot you"). I simply feel that because my actions were an attempt to respond in kind to what the paper in question was considering that the word "threat" was an inappropriate description in the context Ms. Seebach meant it. (The dictionary will point out that "threat" can be defined as merely "an indication of something impending" with no other implications, but from her later use of "thuggery" I assume Ms. Seebach was not referring to "threat" in that sense).

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