The government collects and makes available the names and addresses of various groups, including Republican and Democratic Party members, convicted child molesters, and apparently, gun owners. This weekend, in an episode that conjures up images of hysterical witch hunts and blackballing reds, a NY paper published the personal information for all the gun owners in two NY counties. The article warns about and is titled, ‘The gun owner next door’.
Targeting gun owners, literally
The Gannett-owned New York newspaper, The Journal News, made thousands of residents famous this weekend when it published the names and addresses of all registered gun owners in the 2-county region. Technically, as the publisher points out, these are the individuals who have applied for and received a gun owner’s permit over the past 5 years, not necessarily actual gun owners. According to the accompanying report, there are approximately 44,000 registered gun owners in the paper’s 3-county coverage area.
The sub-title of the article fearfully warns, ‘What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood’. The article rarely mentions that the writer, Dwight R. Worley, doesn’t know any more about the guns in your neighborhood than you do. The various County Clerks offices who supplied the names and addresses of permit holders refused to divulge the number and types of specific firearms registered.
If the article title wasn’t inflammatory enough, the first sentence of the story sinks straight to the sensational extreme. ‘In May, Richard V. Wilson approached a female neighbor on the street and shot her in the back of the head,’ Worley’s report begins in The Journal News, ‘a crime that stunned their quiet Katonah neighborhood.’ The gist of the account is that Wilson owned firearms, ‘without any neighbors knowing’. Not surprisingly, the article then jumps to the recent Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut to reinforce the alleged dangers of living in the same neighborhood or town as a gun owner.
After linking citizens who’ve applied for and received a gun owners permit with the Sandy Hook shooter and a 77 year-old mentally disturbed murderer, the paper then points readers to a list of gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties compiled by the paper’s staff. The database was acquired via Freedom of Information Act requests to the two counties’ clerks offices. Officials confirm that the information is public information, although the two counties don’t make it available except by request.
Maps of gun owners homes
Going one step further, The Journal News also created an interactive map online so readers can zero in on their own neighborhood and street and see which of their neighbors are quietly harboring guns. Simply click on any of the roughly 44,000 little red dots signifying an actual individual with a gun owners permit, and their name and address pops up in a little window.
View the interactive map here.
Read the accompanying article from The Journal News.
Ironically, article author Dwight R. Worley is himself a gun owner and is used as an example with the sample map within the article. Worley’s report states in the caption below the map, ‘Journal News reporter Dwight R. Worley owns a Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum and has had a residence permit in New York City for that weapon since February 2011.’ Smartly, Worley conveniently omits his own address, a luxury he didn’t afford the victims of his own column.
What does it mean if a reader of The Journal News is horrified to find out they are one of the unlucky ones who lives next door to one of ‘those people’ – a gun owner and potential serial killer? Never fear, the article author and map creator Dwight R. Worley tells us.
“I would love to know if someone next to me had guns,” the article quotes one resident, “It makes me safer to know so I can deal with that. I might not choose to live there.”
Readers and gun owners outraged
The first indication that The Journal News may have gone too far by publishing the names and addresses of gun owners was when the online article garnered over 500 reader comments within the first 24 hours. Most comments were negative, condemning the paper for its lynch mob mentality and portraying private, law-abiding citizens as common criminals and a danger to their own communities.
The firestorm of outrage by gun owners across America was fierce and swift. The controversy grew so fast, ABC News reached out to publishers and editors of The Journal News for an explanation, but representatives of the paper refused to comment.
In place of a statement from author Dwight R. Worley or his paper, ABC News published a sample of the reader comments posted to the article so far.
“This is CRAZY!! Why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner information??,” wrote one reader, “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. What next? Should I hang a flag outside my house that says I own a gun? I am canceling my subscription with your paper today!!!”
“How about a map of the editorial staff and publishers of Gannett and Journal News with names and addresses of their families,” wrote another reader.
So far, the paper hasn’t released a statement regarding the controversy its article and accompanying map of gun owners’ homes has created. Regardless, one thing is for sure – gun owners are angry over this one.
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