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Delegate McDonough calls for “Gun-Owner Privacy Act”

December 28, 2012

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.

When City Paper asked McDonogh if the bill intended to “limit the First Amendment in order to protect the Second,” he responded: “That’s a good way to put it.”

“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.”

When asked if, as a conservative, he believes that it is the role of the state to limit the “editorial point of view” of a newspaper, he said “You know yourself that there are regulations on the First Amendment. You know there are laws against scandal [sic] or things that are harmful.”

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.”

 McDonough, who raised concerns last May when he said “black youth mobs terrorize” the city, acknowledged that his bill had little chance of passing. “My personal philosophy is I don’t always introduce legislation with the idea its going to pass,” he said. “Because in the House of Delegates there are 98 Democrats and only 43 Republicans, the mathematics are not very good. And those Democrats happen to be very aggressive, if not bullying, in their approach to government.”

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.

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