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.

NEXT: Or That Guy's Boss's Boss

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  1. No police officer would pull over a motorist and ASSUME that he or she is unarmed. So what would the data, that this guy is a law-abiding citizen who is licensed to carry, do for the officer? Should he pull his weapon, get the guy on the ground until he PROVES he’s not dangerous? Why not just allow cops to come into your home without a warrant to just, oh, have a look around..just to check up on you? I mean, only the guilty would have anything to worry about, right? “Crisis is the rallying cry of a tyrant” said James Madison.

  2. This is not surprising, outlandish, or extraordinary at all. Its exactly how the Power keeps its power. Know who can shoot back….

  3. As a guy who is a) not a gun owner, and b) not a gun fan, I nevertheless agree with the above posts. This is a breach of privacy, pure and simple.

    Now, if there was an initial disclosure, “If you register for concealed carry, you will be listed in the criminal database,” for example, this would be a different story. People would be able to make a rational decision up front, and choose whether the benefit of concealed carry outweighed the loss of privacy. But this was not the case; this was a fairly typical overreach by the government.

    In Minnesota, there’s a new project to keep track of medical records. Everyone’s medical history–complete with name–will be tracked by the state government. We’re told that this will be a marvelous advance in epidemiology. Perhaps it will. But it’s government actions like this that make me wonder whether some day my medical history will be available to the police. Hey, if I didn’t want the police to know I have a mental disorder, I didn’t have to go to the psychologist.

  4. Jeff:

    Pretty sure it’s another way for Minnesota to spend taxpayer money to move closer to socialized medicine. At any rate, these databases won’t help in epidemiology at all. We’ve had pretty good success tracking down diseases wihtout them.

    But I’m just an engineer. what do I know.

  5. Maybe they can cross-reference this database with their other illegally obtained and error filled surveillance database.
    BTW, great quote spork.

  6. This is neither outrageous nor is it wrong. In fact, in Texas, it is the state which issues you a CCW permit, and by applying, YOU put YOURSELF into their DATABASE. Not some mythical evil government bureaucrat, YOU. If you don’t want to be in the database of CCW holders, simply do NOT apply for the permit.

    Just how ludicrous can you privacy-aholics get? Yes you have a right to privacy. No, you have no right to anonymity.

    This is not gun registration. This is a registration of a government-issued permit. You asked the government (the state) for that permit.

    Now, go out and find something valid to whine about. There’s too much work that needs doing, and you’re wasting your space on the planet.

  7. This has an immediately practical application as well. Having one’s name in the database could be interpreted as probable cause for search. The motorist with a CCW could no longer deny a consent search. This is no privacy boogey man. It is insidious and it is real.

  8. If walking down Main Street with a big old 9mm in your waist band is a normal, healthy, safe, respectable thing to do, and a protected constitutional right to boot, then why do you need to hide that fact from everybody?

  9. Those that love to give up their privacy would have been good Jews back in the 30’s. They would have walked right into the showers and took a deep breath. A few days later they would have been a lamp shade or a bar of soap.

  10. Joe, it’s legal to have money, do you walk down the street flashing $100 bills? Why not?

    This isn’t about anonymity. Americans are the most dossiered people on earth. Worst than Soviet era Russia, worse than East Germany. What makes that acceptable is how the data is used, and the fact that proliferation of that data is typically limited. This crosses the line because it takes a legal activity and lumps it in with criminal ones. If this is correct why shouldn’t we submit DMV registrations of sport car owners to the habitually speeders lists that some states maintain? Why don’t we make everybody register grow lights and track the users, they’re probably growing weed, let’s be “proactive”?

  11. Paul:

    You miss the point. By putting law-abiding citizens in the “criminal” database, the implication is that thy are inherently criminal.

    In other words, you carry a handgun illegally; you are breaking the law – you ARE a criminal, but the police officer must find a reason to search your car.

    You carry a handgun legally; you are NOT a criminal. The officer may search your car at will.

    Now, what’s wrong with this scenario?

    What’s wrong with it is the same thing that’s wrong with essentially every gun-control measure ever thought of: practically speaking, there are penalties for obeying the law, and none for disobeying it.

    See the current situation in England for why this is bad.

  12. It’s doubly pernicious, because CCW permit holders, as a group, are among the most law abiding of citizens. There is no plausible justification, beyond antigun bias or bureaucratic powergrabbing, to keep tabs on them in this way.

  13. And since when do I NOT have a right to anonymity? Anonymity and privacy are kind of the same thing. You may question my credibility because I am anonymous, but that doesn’t automatically make me a suspect.

    Or to put it another way: why is it acceptable for the government to be paranoid but not acceptable for me to be paranoid?

  14. Just try to publish the names and addresses of law enforcement officers, who are public employees (who also carry guns), and see what happens…

    Doctors need a license to practice medicine. This information is not private. Let’s publish their names and addresses (some of them even receive taxpayer money to perform abortions)…

    Library books are paid for by the public. There is no reason the government can’t keep track of who reads what, and enter that information into a database. After all, if reading certain books “is a normal, healthy, safe, respectable thing to do, and a protected constitutional right to boot, then why do you need to hide that fact from everybody?”

    Teachers need a teaching license. Therefore, police officers should assume that any teacher they stop is a sex offender, until proven otherwise (“for the sake of the children”).

    Do you have a government issued social security number? Maybe that should be entered into a criminal database too, to catch identity thieves.

    Where does it end?

  15. The main problem is that we do not need a permit to exercise our RIGHTS. Otherwise they are simply privileges to be taken away at any time.

    Would those who believe that it’s OK to enter the names of law-abiding gun owners into a criminal database argue that it’s OK to enter the names of law-abiding African-Americans into a criminal database?


    75% of the U.S. population is white, and 12% of the U.S. population is black.

    Blacks commit about 25% of the violent crimes.

    Source. Table 40: “Percent distribution of single-offender victimizations, by type of crime and perceived race of offender”, and Table 46: “Percent distribution of multiple-offender victimizations, by type of crime and perceived race of offenders” in the Justice Departments Criminal Victimization in the United States.

    About 8% of violent crime involves a firearm.

    Source. Table 66: “Percent of incidents, by victim-offender relationship, type of crime and weapons use” in CVUS

    643 police officers were murdered between 1992 – 2001. Of the 819 known assailants involved in these crimes, 426 were white (52%), and 323 were black (39%).

    Source. Table 25: “Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed. Profile of Known Assailants, 1992 – 2001” in the FBI’s Police Officers Killed and Assaulted 2001.

    I have no idea how many CCW permit holders commit violent crimes, or murder police officers. But I’ll bet it’s close to zero.

    If it’s OK to treat 40 million to 80 million law-abiding gun owners like criminals, then why should we give a rat’s ass when the government wants to violate the rights of some other group?

  17. This is a simple issue of common sense. Yes, you may be “voluntarily” applying for a license. No, it may not technically be registration of firearms per se.

    But practically speaking, the more the exercise of a right is subject to licensing or “common sense” regulation, the less it is a God-given right in practice, and the more it resembles a privilege that is held at the sufferance of the State. The most important reason for gun rights is as a last line of defense when the state gets beyond constitutional control. If the state has a list of who owns firearms, or outlaws those most effective against uniformed agents of the state, that kind of undermines the whole point of an armed citizenry, doesn’t it?

    “If you don’t have anything to hide, you’ve got no reason to worry.” Tell that to the Japanese-Americans who were identified for roundup in the spring of 1942 by data from the “confidential” 1940 census.

  18. Paul,

    If you would have checked the database, you would have seen that I have a permit for wasting my space on this planet. (Inter-planetry permit pending.)

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