March 5, 2013

Another View: Government watchdogs don't need personal data to do job

The media can tell whether public officials are acting properly without knowing individual names.


Although I don't always agree with the Press Herald editors, their arguments are usually well-reasoned. But not their view that identifying people with concealed-carry permits is required for public oversight of government (Our View, "State should not seal concealed-carry records," Feb. 20).

First, the same "public-oversight" argument could be used to identify private citizens for almost any reason at all -- for example, releasing personal medical information on citizens participating in government-administered health assistance programs to monitor for fraud, or identifying women who've had legal abortions to make sure they were performed by competent licensed physicians, etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Second, protecting law-abiding citizens' personal information does not prevent the relevant legislative oversight committees or news-gathering organizations from determining whether concealed-carry permits were issued properly, or that only licensed medical practitioners performed abortions. Such issues do not require identifying permit holders or women having abortions. Nor do they restrict news-gathering organizations from collecting anonymous statistical and demographic information on these groups.

Third, despite their stated reasons, it is clear that the only aim of the New York newspaper that identified concealed-carry permit holders was to sensationalize public concern about several recent murders. And just how would the Bangor Daily News' knowledge of the identities of law-abiding permit holders have advanced its coverage of drug-related or other violence, or domestic abuse?

No, the editors' argument was a non sequitur. A need to personally identify law-abiding citizens does not logically follow from the need for public oversight of government, any more than killing a rabbit would keep a fox out of your henhouse.

Paul S. Bachorik is a resident of Falmouth.


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