If Gunowners are in a Database with Criminals, Then…


One of the favorite rhetorical tropes of those who wish to downplay the dangers and general unsavoryness of ever-growing government databases is that "only the guilty have reason to fear." Well, maybe. But what about when the line between guilty and not guilty is carelessly (or, in reality, probably quite carefully) muddied, as in this recent action by Larimer County, Colorado, Sherriff Jim Alderden, named "Privacy Villain of the Week" by the National Consumer Coalition's Privacy Group?

Alderden, as this account from the Ft. Collins Coloradan has it, submitted the names of concealed-carry permit holders to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's Colorado Crime Information Center. By doing this, law enforcement officers are made aware that individuals might be carrying a concealed weapon when making contact with them.

For example, when officers run driver's licenses on their computers in routine traffic stops, the CCIC will inform them if the driver is a concealed weapon permit holder.

"Basically, you come up on their terminal just like any other criminal," said D. Ray Hickman, northern coordinator for Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, a gun rights advocacy group.

As the NCC put it in their press release naming Alderden a privacy villain, "Alderden rationalized his action by saying that the database of gunowners is public, therefore there's no reason the CCIC shouldn't include it in their own database. But Alderden's action voided the purposes of both databases—one for keeping track of criminals, the other a list of those explicitly deemed not criminal by the state. All sorts of things are "public" information—marriage licenses, real estate filings, etc.—but that's no reason to put people mentioned in those documents on a list of dangerous criminals."

Such mission creep on the part of government data collectors–who always have a perfectly sensible reason to want to collect data for just this one purpose–is almost constant, and needs to be remembered by those who carelessly assume that privacy-violating data collection can be safely compartmentalized.