NY newspaper's handgun permit map draws criticism

In this screenshot from the Journal News website, you can see a map published of Weschester County, NY., in which the information of registered handgun owners is listed. The paper is catching flak over publishing the information, which is public record in the state of New York.

In this screenshot from the Journal News website, you can see a map published of Weschester County, NY., in which the information of registered handgun owners is listed. The paper is catching flak over publishing the information, which is public record in the state of New York.

NEW YORK — A newspaper's publication of the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in two New York counties has sparked online discussions — and a healthy dose of outrage.

The Journal News, a Gannett Co. newspaper covering three counties in the Hudson Valley north of New York City and operating the website lohud.com, posted a story Sunday detailing a public-records request it filed to obtain the information.

The 1,800-word story headlined, "The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood," said the information was sought after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., about 50 miles northeast of the paper's headquarters in White Plains. A gunman killed his mother, drove to an elementary school and massacred 20 first-graders and six adults, then shot himself. All the weapons used were legally owned by his mother.

The Journal News story includes comments from both sides of the gun-rights debate and presents the data as answering concerns of those who would like to know whether there are guns in their neighborhood. It reports that about 44,000 people in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties are licensed to own a handgun and that rifles and shotguns can be purchased without a permit.

It was accompanied online by maps of the results for Westchester and Rockland counties; similar details had not yet been provided by Putnam County. A reader clicking on the maps can see the name and address of each pistol or revolver permit holder. Accompanying text states that inclusion does not necessarily mean that an individual owns a weapon, just who obtained a license.

By Wednesday afternoon, the maps had been shared about 30,000 times on Facebook and other social media.

Most online comments have criticized the publication of the data, and many suggest it puts the permit holders in danger because criminals have a guide to places they can steal guns. Others maintain it tells criminals who does not have a gun and may be easier to victimize, or where to find law enforcement figures against whom they might hold a grudge.

Some responded by publicizing the home addresses and phone numbers of the reporter who wrote the piece, along with other journalists at the paper and even senior executives of Gannett. Many echoed the idea that publicizing gun permit holders' names is tantamount to accusing them of doing something wrong, comparing the move to publishing lists of registered sex offenders.

The Journal News is standing behind the project. It said in the story that it published a similar list in 2006.

"Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular," Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement. "We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."

Roy Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank, said publishing the data was "too indiscriminate."

He, too, compared the maps to similar efforts involving sex-offender registries or lists of those arrested for driving under the influence, noting that such a move is usually done to indicate a serious problem that requires a neighbor or parent to maintain vigilance.

"You get the connotation that somehow there's something essentially wrong with this behavior," he said of the gun permit database.

"My predisposition is to support the journalism," Clark said. "I want to be persuaded that this story or this practice has some higher social purpose, but I can't find it."

Also common among the comments on the lohud.com were suggestions about suing the paper for violating permit-holders' privacy rights. Such a move would likely be unsuccessful.

"The media has no liability for publishing public information," said Edward Rudofsky, a First Amendment attorney at Zane and Rudofsky in New York. The issue does present a clash between First and Second amendment rights, he said, but in general, the law protects publishing public information unless the intent was to harm someone.


oldster 2 years, 8 months ago

The tragedy in Connecticut has caused much discussion and consternation among many. Some have said that guns should be banned because of this tragedy. 23 young children brutally murdered is indeed a horrific act. I would add that if guns should be banned because of this then also should abortion be banned because of the brutal deaths of 3322 children in our country each day. Statistics from Guttmacher Inst., 2008 the latest year abortion figures are available.


FryarTuk 2 years, 8 months ago

Using your logic because abortion is allowed it is okay to murder young children and others.

BTW, no one has suggested that guns should be banned that I have read.


1d2ec 2 years, 8 months ago

Now the robbers know where not to go.


SalukiGrad 2 years, 8 months ago

So here is the address and phone of NY Journal "calumnist" Dwight R. Worley who published all of the HOME ADDRESSES of Law Abiding Conceal Carry Gun Owners of the entire state of NY:

Dwight R Worley 23006 139 Ave Springfield Gardens, NY 11413

But you might want to call him first to let him know you’ll be dropping in: (718) 527-0832

Since JD feels this is inappropriate, perhaps the story shouldn't be covered.

Tim Nelson ----You have my contact information -----Grow a set and stop all comments if you want to limit the comments of a few.


Jack_Frost 2 years, 8 months ago

Are you surprised that Sumner would pull this? He's fine with free speech, so long as its his.


waltspecht 2 years, 8 months ago

Lets see now. This tells someone where to go to steal a gun, where to go where there won't be a problem dealing with a pistol armed citizen, provided they don't have a pesky unregistered Shotgun or Rifle, Where not to go if you are afraid of an armed citizen. Now if they publish the New York City roles, you will also know where the Shotguns and Rifles are because they have to register them there. This was done out of pure maliciousness. Same thing was tried in Chicago, but the State Legislator blocked it.


VSU 2 years, 8 months ago

If they have a published list of who has guns, seems to me this would endanger those that does not show up on the list of owning guns.


Cartman 2 years, 8 months ago

Those dots represent a lot of armed people who did not shoot up a school.


Cartman 2 years, 8 months ago

I just read that someone printed the maiden name, address, facebook page, and other identity information of the "journalist" who wrote the article, and the names and addresses of the entire newspaper staff. LOL. I love it!


VSU 2 years, 8 months ago

A little taste of their own medicine. They should call them all hours of the night.


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