A New York newspaper has gone to the effort to map out and publish online – complete with names and addresses – all the people in its area who own handgun permits.
The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., has created interactive, online maps of all handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, while it’s also waiting on information from Putnam County.
The newspaper boasts it was able to obtain the names and addresses through a Freedom of Information request, for New York state law makes permit holders’ information public record.
The interactive maps not only give an overall picture of the distribution of handgun permits, but can also be zoomed in upon, revealing the name and address of those licensed to own a handgun, be it pistol or revolver.
Presumably, a person familiar with an area could also use the maps to obtain locations of homes where the owner doesn’t have a handgun permit.
Jeff Knox, director of The Firearms Coalition, called the newspaper’s action “an outrageous invasion of privacy and a highly irresponsible action.”
“People choose to own handguns for a variety of reasons, personal defense being the most common,” Knox told WND. “How many victims of domestic violence, armed to protect themselves from an abusive spouse or boyfriend, were jeopardized by releasing this information? How many vulnerable seniors were placed at-risk by revealing the fact that they own guns?
A gun in the home is a last line of defense against violent criminals,” Knox continued. “Publicizing the existence of the gun in a particular home can have a potentially deadly impact. Guns are highly desirable targets of thieves, and we can expect that some of the people on this list will have their homes burglarized within the next 12 months.”
Response to the online article, judging by its comments section, has likewise been overwhelmingly negative.
“This is crazy!” commented a poster identified as Curtis Maenza. “Why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner[‘s] information? What do you hope to accomplish by doing this? This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders, not law-abiding gun owners. … I am canceling my subscription with your paper today!”
A poster identifying himself as Robert Wachtel of Mahopac, N.Y., added, “This is the single most irresponsible and dangerous piece of ‘journalism’ I have ever seen. Criminals can now target a specific neighborhood, wait for pistol permit holders to leave for work and burglarize their homes looking for firearms.”
He continued, “There is no legitimate public policy purpose for having pistol-permit info available to the general public. Many states have shielded this information and made it available only to law enforcement. I encourage everyone to contact their state representatives to have this … information shielded.”
The state of New York has become a hotbed for debate on the issue of gun laws since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
At the forefront is the New York Daily News, which shed all pretense of unbiased journalism by publishing a frontpage headline following the shooting that read, “Blood on Your Hands,” and called for readers to sign a petition to “institute comprehensive gun control.” The paper’s editorial department further called Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association a “gun-crazed maniac” who “will forever now be known as America’s maddest gunman.” It has continued in news and editorial coverage to refer to LaPierre as “crazy.”
The highly charged atmosphere surrounding the issue gave Knox yet another reason to criticize the newspaper’s action.
“At a time when prominent public personalities and political operatives are blaming gun owners for the terrible atrocity in Newtown, Conn., and calling for the deaths of gun owners and NRA members,” Knox said, “the publication of this information appears to be an overt threat and intentional effort at intimidation.
“The publication of this information just goes to demonstrate why gun owners around the country are so vehemently opposed to laws requiring registration of firearms,” he concluded. “Something like this paints a large bull’s-eye on the backs of gun owners and on the front doors of their homes, placing them and their families at risk for no justifiable reason.”