Most of us don’t completely trust the government. We certainly don’t want government to be able to prevent us from getting information we want or need.
We are against governments suppressing information…unless it is stuff that we personally want suppressed.Then that’s different, of course.
I thought of that this week when Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that prevents the press or public from being able to get gun records. From now on, we will be unable to find out who owns guns, and who has permits and licenses to have them.
Well, conservatives and gun lovers are thrilled about this, and I’m not surprised. For some reason, those who most feel the need to be heavily armed seem also to be the most paranoid.
State Representative Aric Nesbitt, who enthusiastically backed these bills, said: “By allowing publication of private information about gun owners, some other states have put gun owners and their neighbors at risk. We want to prevent that from happening."
Well, I am touched that he worries about people who keep an AK-47 next to the bed. Last night I asked a Detroit gun fanatic named Rick Ector about this, and he said he was worried burglars would break in and steal his guns.
That seems a trifle odd.
I’d guess a burglar might think twice about breaking in to a place where people are armed. Well, I think these laws are a mistake. I think any law preventing the public from having access to information is a blow to democracy, and a dangerous precedent.
The Founding Fathers knew that. This is why we have the First Amendment in the Constitution. Later, Congress and the Michigan legislature passed Freedom of Information Act.
But in the past year, Snyder has twice signed laws aimed at keeping the public in the dark.
First was the bill that prevented us from finding out who was contributing millions of “dark money” dollars in an effort to buy judicial and other elections.
And now, there is this package preventing us from finding out who has guns. We can legally find out who committed a minor sex offense years ago and where they live, but if a crazy neighbor is stockpiling an arsenal, we now have no right to know that.
By the way, my opposition to these bills is really not about guns, but freedom. We don’t like to put it this way, but we’ve already decided that guns are more important that children.
We proved that when we refused to do anything after 20 first graders were gunned down in their classroom at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. Last month, Toledo’s famous “Joe the Plumber,” told one of those parents, “Your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.” Everybody was shocked, but that is really what our lawmakers seem to believe.
However, what goes around comes around. I wonder how conservatives would feel about a law preventing them from getting any information about Benghazi, or welfare cheating.
Well, they’ve just helped create a precedent for doing so. Democracy, as they say, dies behind closed doors. This year, our governor slammed two more in our faces.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.