As the site of the United States' latest gun-related tragedy, Connecticut is looking to strengthen its gun control with further legislation. Amid the various proposals made is one which rings hollow and invasive. The bill, proposed by State Rep. Stephen Dragan, would require the names and addresses of handgun permit holders to be made public.
The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and the resulting 28 deaths initiated a national discussion on gun laws, including legislative proposals to strengthen them. These debates and pieces of legislation involve an issue that defines democratic governments and the United States in particular: the balance between freedom and safety.
This balance requires great care and must adapt to new challenges. Whether stricter gun laws are to be incorporated in to the new balance is an important discussion for the public to have. But this bill sacrifices freedom and privacy without counterbalancing itself by making society safer.
The expressed purpose of this bill, according to Rep. Dargan, is “to get a broader discussion going on gun issues and mental health in the state,” as FOX News reported. But there is a broader discussion going on throughout the state already; the shooting at Newtown saw to that. The point of new legislation now is to provide solutions, not start a discussion that is already going on. But instead of moving forward, a bill making the names and addresses of permit holders causes controversy without progress.
Knowing the location and name of a potential shooter will do nothing to prevent another tragedy. Obtaining a permit by itself is not cause for suspicion. Over 170,000 people in Connecticut have permits, according to the Hartford Courant, and permit holders are rarely the ones to be concerned about. Say, for example, that the law had been implemented before the shootings at Newtown or Columbine, nothing would have been different. Neither of the perpetrators had permits and, even if they had, there would have been nothing about that to raise any concern.
Information is often useful in protecting ourselves: the more we know the safer we are. But this is a case where the information fails to provide additional options. Perhaps having a permit is cause for concern when coupled with other actions, including the illegal obtainment of guns or ammunition, but if permit holders are committing crimes, the publication of their information does nothing to help. These people will not be further restricted in any way, they will not be actively prevented from doing anything legal nor monitored to prevent them from perpetrating a crime. They will simply have their information available as public record. These facts also make it very apparent that there are no teeth to this law, and no way in which it solves the root problems made apparent by shootings like Newtown.
Knowing there are guns and who has them does not make you safer, does not provide you with a Kevlar vest, does not allow law enforcement to take extra precautions, it simply identifies them. And without any purpose other than identification, this bill does nothing to prevent future shootings, making it simply an invasion of privacy.