, Salem, MA

December 5, 2013

Letter: Column on First Amendment misfires

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

In reading Nelson Benton’s column on Nov. 29 (”Intimidation and the First Amendment”), I agree with the sentiment of open discussion regarding any subject, though it should be understandable to those suggesting violations of the Fourth Amendment that they will be met with fierce opposition when people fire back with their own First Amendment rights. The backlash from Swampscott Selectman Garry Greenfield’s idea was not an “absurd reaction,” but rather an understandable one from those who appreciate the protections our Constitution guarantees us, especially within the current political climate where such protections are under constant attack.

What struck me most, however, was his suggestion that personal information of permit holders be “a matter of public record that should be as readily available as a list of those who pay property taxes...” Not only is this a violation of privacy, there is no public safety benefit. How does divulging the address of a domestic abuse victim with a carry permit for self defense benefit public safety? Publishing such information also provides a list of potential targets for criminals brazen enough to steal firearms for illegal purposes. Conversely, it also provides a list of unarmed citizens who may be easier targets through process of elimination. While Massachusetts has some draconian gun laws, it also has some good ones, and protecting the private information of lawful gun owners is one of them. Even in states where this information is public record, publishing it is foolish and dangerous. All rights come with responsibility, including the responsibility of the press with regard to public safety.

Greg Nowak