Jim Prince 1/25/13

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 25, 2013

‘Knee-jerk’ bills would pit one right against another

There was a time in our country when it was just assumed everybody had a gun.

At some point, we became sophisticated, or did we?

The government has no business whatsoever maintaining records on law-abiding gun owners. It’s unconstitutional.

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The whole problem is registration and permitting. Registration will eventually lead to confiscation, as we are seeing.

Put it this way, do you fear your neighbor more now or the government?

Sen. Will Longwitz, a Republican of Madison, has introduced legislation to exempt gun permit holders from the public record. There’s a similar measure in the House by Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon, a Republican as well.

This legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to a liberal New York newspaper – and we see what’s happened to them.

They’ve taken the map down and will probably get sued because they were so irresponsible.

If we start closing off public records, we will never know the misuses by the government.

It’s troubling Republicans would take such as totalitarian approach to government.

If the government is going to maintain records on gun owners, those records should be open.

What if law enforcement arbitrarily decides to collect more information and add to the files they already have on gun owners, maybe creating sub-databases?

What will government collect in secret about gun owners and how will the government use that information?

Open records help the press provide oversight, a primary role in our democracy.

Transparency is about keeping an eye on our government, not citizens.

The First Amendment isn’t a license to print anything and everything.

Like most Mississippi newspaper publishers, I’ve never – nor do I ever intend to – print the names of gun permit holders.

This isn’t New York.

Mississippi newspaper publishers are more responsible.

So why would I take up such a cause?


The press is a watchdog and without the press the government would share very little.

As president of the Mississippi Press Association, I can’t endorse the sealing of any public records. That would be like a Baptist minister endorsing adultery.

The problem with government is that it will strip away our liberties. Jefferson said that given the choice between whether to have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

There are aspects of the Patriot Act, for example, that are disturbing, such as collecting massive amounts of e-mail and other data from private citizens.

Our country has just re-elected one of the most liberal, big government presidents in history – and now Republicans are promoting government secrecy?

They’ll start with our guns and then religion and maybe finally the press. Or maybe they’ll start with the press.

Any move that would lessen transparency in government only pushes us further down the slippery slope of oppression and tyranny the Founders feared.

In this instance, we have the political agenda of a liberal New York newspaper, the depraved criminals who used the information, who broke in and stole guns, and then those populists in Mississippi who react out of fear and would use this whole episode to make government records more secret.

What does it all say about our society?

In reality, the media are just holding up a mirror.

If America ever lost its moral, virtuous qualities, then the Founders feared the republic would falter.

Like the Founders, we should fear government and any attempt to roll back transparency.

Gun ownership in Mississippi is already a private matter for most of us. The only people required to have a permit are those who want to take a gun anywhere except home, a vehicle or hunting.

No permit is required for a soccer mom to have a pistol in her glove box.

Bad bills like these only accelerate the centralization of government and power and hold the door open for abuses.

Government grows and we give away freedom, we give up control and we fear each other more than the government.

Then we look for our savior in the government and become complacent with the secrecy government naturally demands.

Jim Prince is president of Prince Newspapers, which publishes the Journal, and president of the Mississippi Press Association