6/23/13

Bobby Jindal Signs Off on Journo-Jailing Law

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into a law a bill I wrote about last month that threatens journalists (and just about everyone else) with arrest if they publish information contained on applications for concealed-carry gun permits. For the law to pass constitutional muster down the road, the state would have to show a compelling interest in its existence, a free speech test that Gregg Leslie, legal director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told me "is rarely met."

So presumably, the law will go down in flames if someone manages to challenge it and publish permit info (which isn't subject to public records requests in Louisiana or, last I checked, 26 other states).

I suggested this, more or less, in my article, and was soon accosted by some guy on Twitter who really likes mutton chops—and guns. We came to an agreement that publishing the homes and addresses of permit holders, regardless of whether they're public records, doesn't have much news value relative to the privacy concerns and comes across as a dick move by anti-gun journalists. (The Louisiana lawmaker who proposed the new law got his inspiration from the Journal News, a New York newspaper that pinpointed handgun permit holders' names and addresses on maps without any real further analysis.)

But then I told the guy, hey, look, permit information can benefit the public in ways that don't reveal gun owners' names and addresses—for instance, by tracking the rates of gun violence and permit holders in specific regions of a state. And then he, a self-proclaimed "Private Investigator/Ninja/Surveillance Specialist," threatened to expose my "skeletons" if I published information about his Michigan gun permit. Publishing journalists' information is a pretty standard response with this stuff. It happened to the Journal News, and, in Iowa, to the Des Moines Register, which I recently weighed in on.

I write about the Twitter conversation because it's funny to me, but variations on his take arise all the time—pro-privacy confrontations of the First Amendment that, when the Second Amendment enters the equation, spiral off into righteous, if not always entirely self-aware, gun-owner identity politics.

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