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Delegate Mcdonough Proposes Limiting the First Amendment to Protect the Second

Republican Delegate Pat McDonough held a press conference on Dec. 28 and announced plans to introduce three gun-related bills in the Maryland state legislature. According to the delegate’s press release, the first of these, called the “Gun Owner Privacy Act,” is intended to “prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.”

In a telephone call with City Paper, McDonough, whose 7th 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 and Rockland counties in New York.

When City Paper asked McDonough 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 the 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 is not private, since it is avail able 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, also proposed a second bill, which would “prohibit early release, including parole, from incarceration of any offender convicted of committing a crime while using a gun.” The third bill would ensure that Maryland would mandate capital punishment for mass murderers.

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