DEAR READER: You could be a criminal for publishing a name

Monday, May 27, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dear Reader,

If you own a gun, and I publish your name, I’ve committed a crime. You don’t even need to own one. Just apply for a license or a permit to own or carry a gun.

Or I would violate the law if Gov. Jay Nixon signs the bill passed by our legislature.

Imagine a sports reporter covering Mizzou football. If the quarterback held a gun permit, the reporter would have to write: “Anonymous dropped back and threw a bullet into the endzone for a touchdown.”

You couldn't publish the names of legislators or city officials, university administrators or even members of the Kiwanis Club if they happened to own a gun or an application to own one.

Much has been written about the bill, passed and sent to the governor, invalidating any federal laws that impinge on a person’s constitutional rights to buy, sell or otherwise bear arms.

Little has been said about trampling the First Amendment along the way.

Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Charles, sponsored HB 436. A section of the bill, known as “the Second Amendment Protection Act,” says:

“No person or entity shall publish the name, address, or other identifying information of any individual who owns a firearm or who is an applicant for or holder of any license, certificate, permit, or endorsement which allows such individual to own, acquire, possess, or carry a firearm.”

So let’s take a recent article and apply our General Assembly’s wisdom to it.

On May 15, Missourian reporters Jon McClure and Joe Vozzelli Jr. published the best analysis I’ve read, here or in other newspapers, of the state attorney general’s annual report on racial disparities in traffic policing.

The issue is complex. In addition to sophisticated data analysis, the reporters talked to police officers and Columbia’s police chief, other city officials, community activists and experts on crime reporting. Along with the story were photos by Jaime Henry-White of two armed police officers as they walked their beat.

We can assume that, at minimum, the officers are gun owners or permit holders. It’s not a question reporters routinely ask unless working on a story about gun ownership.

If this bill were already law, the reporters would have needed to find out who owns guns and avoid publishing their names. Otherwise, McClure, Vozzelli and Henry-White would have committed a Class A misdemeanor.

Yep. You could run afoul of the law (up to $1,000 fine) for publishing a name.

The section of this bill is aimed at the press. Shortly after the killings of schoolchildren in Newton, Conn., the Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., published an interactive map of the names and addresses of thousands of gun permit holders in its circulation. The uproar that followed, including death threats to the editor, eventually prompted the paper to take the map down.

But don’t think you’re safe just because you’re not a journalist. Most of you publish, all the time.

The bill defines publishing as “any printed or electronic form for distribution or sale.” Is your Facebook page public? Did you tweet the name of a gun holder today? Watch out.

Now, you might be thinking, well, the lawmakers in Jefferson City only intended to stop news media from publishing lists of gun permit holders. If so, legislators were in need of an editor because the bill as written takes a broader whack at the First Amendment protections of free speech and free press.

The Missouri Press Association has asked the governor to veto the bill. The association instead pushed for SB 75, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, to close to the public any gun owner lists or permit records. (Sheriff’s department concealed carry permit lists are already sealed, and they have been for years.)

I suppose the association considers it the lesser of two evils. At least Brown’s bill, unlike Funderburk’s, would avoid creating prior restraint laws against speech. Both are on the governor's desk.

Not everyone agrees with prohibiting the publication of permit holder lists. Most fans of the First recognize, however, that constitutional protections aren’t absolute.

They are worth fighting for.


Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Michael Williams May 27, 2013 | 9:31 a.m.

Since I have to identify myself to post in this place, and with the simple left-click of the "post comment" button the Missourian will post my name, I guess both of us should head for the pokey.

Yes, the bill language needs a tweak.

Question is: Would you accept the law with a which clearly states you and I may not universally and publicly identify that "so-and-so" is a CCW holder or gun owner?

I don't think you would. I think if a "tweak" happened, you'd still find something to gripe about because linking the names with guns is not your real agenda.

Guns are.

You're welcome to correct me, tho.

I find myself in the very uncomfortable position of recognizing the extraordinary importance of the fourth estate and First amendment, yet not giving a rat's ass for your concerns about a free press.

Yes, I'm that jaded (and pissed) to my own detriment about the job you and most of the public press are doing. I see the bias and antagonism from the media (and this newspaper) against religion and the Second Amendment, the overwhelming liberal leaning, the promotion of class warfare, the blatant incrementalism, and the like.

And now, when your "ox" is getting gored, you want MY sympathy and support?

In your dreams.

By the way, how many conservative writers/columnists do you have on your staff? One? ONE?

I'm betting it's not Rose Nolen, either.

Do you think we do not notice that the media is deliberately alienating one half of it's potential readership and revenue source? Do you think we do not walk with our wallets? Do you wonder why many of us are abandoning the MSM mothership and looking to other informational venues? Do you not understand how and why Fox News Network was able to capitalize on the resonating "Fair and Balanced" slogan? Whether or not they are?

Hello. Anyone home? Are you alone in that ivory-tower?

I'm not pleased one damn bit that I'm unsympathetic with your plea and concerns. I should be on your side.

But, I'm not. You and the MSM have turned your backs on me and things I hold dear too many times.

You lost my vote.

(Report Comment)
Ed Lane May 27, 2013 | 10:09 a.m.

Great comment Michael!!!!!! You took the words right out of my mouth. AND you put it so well.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 27, 2013 | 11:34 a.m.

I fully agree, Michael. My version for our friend Warhover and his colleges is that they cannot expect to have their cake and eat it too. I see that situation (wanting to both eat and preserve the same "cake") as a serious flaw in contemporary American society, and not just by the Fourth Estate.

Unbiased news reporting and political indoctrination are SEPARATE AND INCOMPATIBLE SUBJECTS.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 27, 2013 | 12:06 p.m.

Ellis/Ed: The 4th estate has been under attack by the DOJ, yet nary a word from Warhover et al.*** He/they are silent on Benghazi and the IRS, also.

Actually, I understand the lack of criticism since I was once in that same boat back in the early '70s. You see, somehow I got my mind wedded to the notion that if I did not support President Nixon in the midst of his troubles, that meant all that I believed was negated and faulty since my leader was down the tubes. I linked the man with the values. So, I supported him in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

What I SHOULD have done was say to the President, "You're bad for us. Leave, you dumbass. YOU are the one who abandoned his (and my) principles."

And, now, I see "liberals" doing the same thing with their favored their beliefs to the man. Even the weakest MSM criticism cannot be passed on without a few words of pretzeled mitigating circumstances, as if that makes the hurty all better.

There is another article in this newspaper today about WWII vets. It's a great story, a wonderful story! But, I'm absolutely confident there have been one helluva lot of vets that came after WWII...but, as always, they get the short end of the MSM stick. Of course, WWII was the last "good" war to many folks, many of them in the MSM.

There are damn good reasons military folks vote overwhelmingly for conservatives versus liberals. The posture of the MSM is one.

***And I'm not too sympathetic with the media about their phone records intrusion. They remain muffled on the deaths of 4 Americans in Benghazi, the lie about the video, the IRS scrutiny of conservative groups (affected the elections???????), yet scream bloody murder when one of their own gets investigated???????

How do I deal with this internal conflict of "This is a horrible, unconstitutional act against journalists" versus "You forfeited any help from me"?

I deal with it by stating, "Pound sand!"

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover May 27, 2013 | 12:10 p.m.

"You're welcome to correct me, tho." Thanks, Michael, I will.
I'm attacking a bizarre, unconstitutional section of a bill that never should have been written and that affects YOU and your rights as a citizen, not just press rights. (The First Amendment covers press AND speech, as well as the rights to petition, of assembly and religion.)
It wasn't an attack on guns; if I wanted to do that, I would have written about other parts of the bill that many legal experts consider unconstitutional. I generally try to keep my column to press issues and the work of the Missourian staff.
You are correct that I don't agree with your tweak. If you want to make those lists private, write bills that make it illegal for the government to distribute them, not bills against the people.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 27, 2013 | 12:10 p.m.

Ellis: "...My version for our friend Warhover and his colleges is that they cannot expect to have their cake and eat it too."

Indeed. How does an editor justify support for increased minimum wages, yet not pay their contributing columnists, expecting them to work for free?***

Riddle me that.

***Hint: It has to do with telling others how to spend their money. INO, don't do as I as I say. It's a liberal thingie.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 27, 2013 | 12:19 p.m.

If you want to make those lists private, write bills that make it illegal for the government to distribute them, not bills against the people.

Agree. I chose poorly with my "you and I" in my comment.

Would you support at least that part of the bill, then?

PS: And yes, you did find something else to gripe about, even with your fix. The offending paragraph was simply your venue to gripe about threats to a free press...and yet you remain silent about the federal DOJ intrusion into a reporter.

(Report Comment)
Tom Warhover May 27, 2013 | 12:24 p.m.

The Department of Justice actions against the Associated Press were deplorable and have been condemned by every mainstream news media organization.

I'd love to add my voice to the universal disgust that every journalist I talk to shares in the Obama administration with regard to blanket eavesdropping of news organizations.

The American Society of News Editors called it "appalling" and "an affront to a free press."

The AP Managing Editors (a group of upper level editors across the US): "'In a continuing witch hunt for leaks and whistleblowers, the Obama administration has chosen to trample the First Amendment,' said APME President Brad Dennison."

Ditto the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association, etc.

I had considered writing about the DoJ a week ago, but figured it was just piling on, and I only occasionally write about national issues.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks May 27, 2013 | 5:06 p.m.

"I had considered writing about the DoJ a week ago, but figured it was just piling on, and I only occasionally write about national issues."

Really that is your comment? Heaven forbid you speak up about something that could include you. I mean yeah people were being gassed in modified showers in Germany but why say anything I heard that others would take care of it. What is that you say? My bank account was compromised and cleared out? I guess I could file a complaint and get my money back but I read that other accounts were compromised as well so who am I to complain. I would hate to be the one piling on the poor bank.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 27, 2013 | 6:02 p.m.

Tom: Thanks for your comments expressing disgust at the DOJ.

You're late.

As for your "I'm attacking a bizarre, unconstitutional section of a bill that never should have been written and that affects YOU and your rights as a citizen..." comment:

If you are so concerned about things that affect me and my rights as a citizen, then you (and your newspaper) need to be one helluva lot less biased in your reports and the things you choose to report. You're a journalist, for heaven's sake, and I expect you to report. Quite frankly, if I had an employee who did such a biased job, I'd fire them in a heartbeat.

I agree with Corey....your "it was just piling on" comment was so strange that I wonder upon WHO you thought you would be piling.....See my 12:06 pm comment.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman May 28, 2013 | 12:23 p.m.

From the known liberal of the opinion page -

Corey and Michael, you would not know about the DoJ actions, about Benghazi, about any of the other problems you describe without mainstream media's reporting, and that does include Fox News.

As to news bias - and yes my columns are quite bias, but the paper does not have an Editorial Board, one that makes judgements as to what is written on the opinion pages, thus opposition comments are permitted without prejudice.

One reason Karl and I share the same page is an attempt to balance the commentary. (Pretty successful, I might add.) If you believe that the conservative side of the page is woefully lacking, maybe you should speak with Tom about having your own regular column (if space allows). Afterall, you are already providing regular commentary but without recognition. (Ask Mike Martin about the pay scale.)

I do want to thank you for a column idea. Tomorrow my column is about the AP/Fox fiasco; but next week, maybe a column about being a political essayist. Rule One - You have to have a sense of humor.

I hope this finds you all well and in great spirits - David

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 28, 2013 | 1:31 p.m.

Corey & Michael:

Having a sense of humor is definitely a good thing.

Having good sense (period!) is a VERY good thing, but from your prior posts on this forum it appears obvious that you do have good sense.

Homework assignment: If you haven't already done so, please look up "dilettante" in your dictionaries (book or online version). Thank you.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 28, 2013 | 4:34 p.m.

DaveR: "If you believe that the conservative side of the page is woefully lacking, maybe you should speak with Tom about having your own regular column"

No, I'd just be piling on what other posters say.

Besides, why would I want to write for a paper so hypocritical they would support increases in minimum wages, yet pay their commentators nothing? Can you say "someone else's money?"

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 28, 2013 | 4:49 p.m.

Dave, the complaint about bias is not about you. We already know that and no admission of guilt or shame is necessary.

The complaint is towards the Missourian specifically and most of the MSM including TV and newspapers. I won't mention talk radio since it IS biased, we all know it, and it's that way since a liberal radio talk show can't stay in business and compete worth a damn. It's unbalanced because of incompetence.

If you've been reading my stuff, you know that my complaints of bias are directed at (1) how news is reported and (2) what news is reported.

The ratio of liberal (Warhover, Rosman, Nolen, Kennedy, several emeritis profs) to conservative (a Marine) columnists in the Missourian is simply evidence for the liberal bias hereabouts. And, I also get a chuckle at the cross-town newspaper; after all, is there anyone who REALLY believes Hank Waters is a libertarian? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

The first step in recovery is to admit a problem. The Missourian should just publish a front page (above the fold) editorial that says "We are unabashed liberals and our news reflects that!" and deal with the fallout. It engenders respect and, besides, a newspaper looks silly trying to say "No, I'm not" when it so obviously is.....

I expect the same from Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams May 28, 2013 | 4:51 p.m.

Ellis: I looked up "dilettante" and the only thing it said was Field Marshall Montgomery and General Patton.

But Patton admitted it outloud. Makes a difference, dontcha know.......

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.