January 21, 2004

Conservatives: a question for you

If any conservatives read this blog, I have an honest question for you.

Let me say right off that I support the right to own guns, and I oppose most kinds of gun control. So on that issue, most people would call me a conservative, too.

But I'm confused about what seems to be an inconsistency among Republicans. Perhaps some of you could help me out.

On one hand, the omnibus appropriations bill in the Senate, which Republicans support, contains a provison which seems to increase the privacy of gun buyers:

The omnibus bill also includes a little-noticed amendment that has led to sparring between the gun industry and gun control advocates over the use of firearms records. The amendment, drafted in the House with the aid of the National Rifle Association, would require federal officials to destroy records on gun purchases within 24 hours instead of waiting 90 days, as is now required.

My question is this: how do Republicans reconcile their support for destroying records of gun purchases with their support for the Patriot Act, which enables the government to snoop through your library records without showing probable cause or even informing you that your records have been snooped?

Why do republicans seem to trust the government here, and distrust the government there?

Posted by Carey at January 21, 2004 08:24 AM

Well, I'm not a Republican; I come from the small-l libertarian wing of the Democratic party. I'm willing to take a swing at it, though.

What's to stop a library from destroying the records of what people check out at the library, thus preventing the government from viewing them? Why not make the processes symmetrical?

Posted by: Alwin Hawkins at January 21, 2004 10:44 PM

I'm a registered independent without strong opinions either way on the gun thing, but the first potential argument that popped up in my mind was that the privacy of a purchaser of (x) is simply valued more highly in an economic sense than the privacy of someone who receives something for free (or at someone else's expense), in this case a consumer of library goods. Having not studied privacy law, I couldn't say whether this is actually how privacy is valued; it's just a thought.

Second thought, probably more viable if you believe (as you appear to) that all privacy is of equal value: the person who buys a gun may not wind up being the person who uses it, therefore purchase records might not lead you to perpetrators as readily. Whereas someone in a library is probably there on their own behalf.

Posted by: JCA at January 22, 2004 10:03 AM

I'm fortunate to get good comments on this blog; it makes up for the occasional 130-post spam dumps...

Anyway, about destroying records; I think that's clearly a good idea. I don't know why a library would keep records of what you've checked out and returned; only the list of books currently checked out and their due dates is necessary.

I also like the idea that private purchases might deserve more privacy, except for the strong countervailing notion that what we read is our own business. At least with weapons, you could conceivably make a public-safety argument for why gun records should be disclosed before library records.

Especially in the context of fighting terrorism, which is what the Patriot Act is supposed to be about, it seems that gun records would be more important in virtually every respect.

Posted by: Carey at January 22, 2004 03:58 PM

That's why anyone with feelings for the right at all should immediately become a libertarian. All the corrupt business sense of the right, complete with all the moral debauchery of the left- and an intense need for privacy.

Get the government out of our personal lives, once and for all!

Posted by: Jordan at January 29, 2004 11:10 PM