A New York newspaper is drawing the ire of its readers in light of what is tantamount to a decision to publish the names of gun owners in its local reading area, according to a report Tuesday at Fox News.
The Journal News published an interactive map that allows readers to find the names and addresses of all gun owners within the geographic area of their residence in Westchester and Rockland counties.
But by Tuesday the decision to publish the information, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, had set off a firestorm of controversy among the newspaper’s readers. Letters to the paper blasted the publication of the map. One writer stated that the newspaper had inadvertently announced to criminals which homes had no guns and were therefore the most vulnerable to burglaries and home invasions.
The newspaper defended its decision to publish the map, stating that its readers were highly interested in gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The practice of some news outlets, usually those with a decidedly anti-gun bias, to publish the names and addresses of gun owners is nothing new. Back in July of this year television station WRAL in Raleigh, N.C. published a database that allowed readers to see how many of their fellow citizens own guns in their neighborhoods. Although the publication of the database came beforehand, the station decided to update and republish the information in the aftermath of the July shooting in Aurora, Colo. when a crazed shooter murdered 12 persons at a movie theater.
In the years prior to the Aurora shooting, gun rights enthusiasts had regularly engaged in a systematic public relations campaign against newspapers that publish the names and addresses of citizens who are licensed to carry concealed guns.
One tool used to fight reporters and editors who engage in such behavior is for gun owners to publish the names, addresses, and phone numbers of editors and reporters by simply gaining access to information that is open to the public in any courthouse in America. Using the tactics of the editors and reporters against them, the gun owners state that it is not illegal to publish such information given that any citizen can walk into a courthouse and obtain the data that is collected under the property owners section and tax records. The information is not private nor protected by law, and thus, to publish it is no violation of the law.
Such a tactic has tended to slow the rush of newspapers to publish the names of concealed carry license holders, but the actions of The Journal News show that the mindset to do so is still very much alive.
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