Delegate McDonough calls for “Gun-Owner Privacy Act”
Republican Delegate Pat McDonough held a press conference today to announce plans to introduce three gun-related bills in the Maryland state legislature. The first of these, called the “Gun-Owner Privacy Act,” is intended, according to the delegate’s press release, “to prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.”
In a telephone call with City Paper, McDonough, whose district includes parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, said that the bill was intended as a response to suburban New York newspaper The Journal News’ publication of publicly available data–including personal information–on gun-owners in Westchester County, New York.
“The bill is going to prohibit publications from printing private information of gun owners,” he said. “This is really a response to the paper in New York which claimed what they were doing was for the public good, but what it really is is a massive editorial taking up two pages of the newspaper reflecting their position of the newspaper. It’s really dishonest to not say it is an editorial.”
City Paper pointed out that printing “harmful” information is illegal only if it is not true and that the information in question may be personal but it is not private, since it is available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). McDonough responded: “It’s publicly available to the point that you have to get FOIA to get it. I think that [FOIA] will be tested in the court about getting that type of information. We live in an age where individuals have very little privacy left.”
In the conversation, McDonough referred to the City Paper as a liberal paper and said we would “tell me what to do on New Year’s Eve when I goout.” He further said that City Paper would attempt to claim that he was not conservative because, in this case, he seemed to favor government regulation of private businesses like newspapers.
There has been controversy within the world of journalism over The Journal News’ publication of data on gun-owners, with the journalism watchdog site Poynter seeming to cautiously criticize the practice. No one within journalism, to our knowledge, has suggested, however, that publishing such publicly available information should be illegal.
McDonough’s second bill would “prohibit early release, including parole, from incarceration of any offender convicted of committing a crime while using a gun,” and the third bill would ensure that Maryland would mandate capital punishment for mass-murderers.