Earlier this week, Westchester newspaper the Journal News decided to jump headfirst into the gun control debate by releasing the names and addresses of registered handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland Counties. (The map above shows where they live.) And naturally, by doing so they enraged a whole bunch of people with guns, as well as a few without them.
In an accompanying article, the Journal News explained that in the wake of the Newtown shootings, people in their area were pushing lawmakers to make information about gun owners more public, and they were interested in seeing how many Lower Hudson Valley residents either owned or lived next door to someone who owned a gun (or two, or three). They used the Freedom of Information act to request the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in three counties—public information by New York State law—and put the records together in one color-coded, interactive Google map. And look at all those guns!
After that, things pretty much hit the fan. Though some readers were glad gun ownership in their area was exposed, others were outraged that this information had gone public. They slammed the piece, calling it a dangerous invasion of privacy. As tends to happen in gun-control forums these days, things got pretty heated in the comments:
"Cyndee Royal, another elitist head-up-her-ass Liberal FuxkTard. What an idiot."
ATTENTION CRIMMINALS: The author of this article is unarmed and therefore unable to defend himself from you. I have a handgun permit. If you break into my house you will be in extreme danger of being shot. But those without protection will be at your mercy.
someone needs to hang for this.... an example for others to follow... if you can lock up a person for insider trading a relatively victimless crime " obviously nancy pelosi & john kerry are guilty as charged for ipo investments but they are exempt because they are politically protected while the rest of us would be locked up ". a person that would do something as possibly dangerous as this? they are as guilty as sin.....
And on Twitter:
Some of the people the Journal News identified as LEGAL gun owners are women in hiding under protective order. Nicely done assholes.
— The Captain (@HeistheGiambino) December 27, 2012
Will White Plains Journal News publish names and addresses of people with gay marriage licenses next? Pubic records, popular issue, etc...
— Tim Williams (@TheBrownFolder) December 27, 2012
Hey Journal News, more peeps r killed by drunk drivers. r ya going to post who has a DUI and a list of AA members?#Idiots
— seor (@seor) December 27, 2012
The Journal News defended their map, and reiterated their right to report on public information. "One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular," publisher Janet Hansson said in a statement yesterday. "We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."
But a couple bloggers took the Journal News-beating a step further. One, lawyer-turned-real-estate-agent Christopher Fountain (who appeared on CNN this morning) found and published home addresses, phone numbers and even family photographs of Journal News editors and employees. "Let's keep those cards and letters (and telephone calls, of course) coming," he wrote. Another made his own rather sad-looking Google map, this one pinpointing the locations of all the Journal News employees.
After all, nothing spurs meaningful political discussion like a good witchhunt—on both sides.