This weekend The Journal News in White Plains wrote an editorial noting that many of their readers have been supportive of the decision to publish a map of public data showing local handgun permits, despite a backlash that has moved the paper to hire armed security. "Many of our readers, especially local residents," the editorial states, "have told us…that they reviewed the public information pertaining to their communities; were eager to learn more about their communities; and were well equipped to make up their own minds about the relevance of the information." Yet the publisher and president of the paper, Janet Hasson, tells the Times that white powder has been sent to the newsroom and that some reporters are staying in hotels. “As journalists, we are prepared for criticism. But in the U.S., journalists should not be threatened.”
The paper published the map on December 23rd in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and has since received death threats and packages of white powder sent to the newsroom and one reporter's office (police determined that the powder was not explosive or dangerous).
Dwight Worley, the reporter who came up with the idea to map and publish public data and who wrote the story, says he's received "taunting phone calls sprinkled in with callers who said 'you should die.' " Part-time staffers who write "wedding anniversary and church potluck announcements" have also been threatened.
The backlash had led lawmakers in Putnam County, New York to defy state law and deny the paper their handgun permit records, and prompted calls from some journalists to (incredibly) criticize The Journal News' map as a "privacy invasion."
The map only shows handgun permits, not the locations of rifle or shotgun owners, and obviously not the homes of where illegal guns are stored. Connecticut state representative Stephen Dargan has introduced a bill that would make the names and addresses of the 170K handgun permits in the state public. “It sparked a conversation that needed to occur in this country," The Journal News' features editor, Mary Dolan said. "And it revealed tactics that will be employed when gun owners feel their rights are threatened."