Thousands of Americans were shocked and angered at one New York newspaper’s attempt at Orwellian vilification of gun owners after it published an online database of gun-permit holders in its locale in the wake of the Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.
The Journal News, based in White Plains, N.Y., published a sensationalized gun-ownership story on Dec. 24 entitled “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood” linking legal gun-permit holders to violent crime. The newspaper collected permit information on 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties proclaiming that one out of every 23 adults in the area are licensed to own a handgun.
From the article:
Anyone can find out the names and addresses of handgun owners in any county with a simple Freedom of Information Law request, and the state’s top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk’s offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.
The story quickly caught the attention of conservative news sites and media outlets and drew heavy criticism. Gun rights advocates likened the publication of a map pinpointing the location of every permit holder in the area to an attempt to portray gun owners as a societal danger like sex offenders.
“We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news told USA Today.
“People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods,” she said. “Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.”
Of note, newspaper giant Gannet Co. Inc., owns both USA Today (which published a follow-up story on the controversial gun-owner list) and The Journal News.