The New York newspaper thatÂ sparkedÂ controversy after publishing the names and addresses of nearby gun permit ownersÂ is now taking up arms in an apparent response to threats.
The Journal News has reportedly hired a teamÂ of armed guards to patrol the paper’s headquarters in West Nyack.
The paper caused a stir on December 23 whenÂ it listed thousands ofÂ pistol permit holders in suburban Westchester andÂ Rockland counties just north of New York City in an interactive map on itsÂ website.
The RocklandÂ County Times reported on Tuesday thatÂ Journal News editor Caryn A. McBride hired gun-toting security guards to patrolÂ the paper’s offices amid a flurry of angry emails and phone calls in theÂ following days.
The paper hired the increased security fromÂ RGA Investigations & Security, a firm based in New City that providesÂ services like protection and security guard certification, according to theÂ Times.
The news came just days after the JournalÂ News announced plans to publish an expanded list ofÂ even moreÂ permit-holding locals.
Along with an article entitled ‘TheÂ gunÂ owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in yourÂ neighborhood,’Â the Journal News mapÂ wasÂ compiled in response to the December 14Â shooting deaths of 20 children and sixÂ adults in Newtown, Connecticut,Â editors of the Gannett Corp.-owned newspaperÂ said.
The next batch of names will beÂ permitÂ holders in suburban Putnam County, New York, where the countyÂ clerk told theÂ newspaper it is still compiling information.
Some 44,000 people are licensed toÂ ownÂ pistols in the three counties, the newspaper said. Owners of riflesÂ andÂ shotguns do not need permits, the newspaper said.
The publication prompted outrage,Â particularly on social media sites, among gun owners.
‘Do you fools realize that you alsoÂ made aÂ map for criminals to use to find homes to rob that have no gunsÂ in them toÂ protect themselves?’ Rob Seubert of Silver Spring, Maryland,Â posted on theÂ newspaper’s web site. ‘What a bunch of liberal boobs youÂ all are.’
Republican state Senator Greg Ball of Patterson, New York, said he planned to introduce legislation to keepÂ permitÂ information private except to prosecutors and police.
A similar bill that he introduced earlier asÂ an Assemblyman failed in the state Assembly.
‘The asinine editors at the JournalÂ NewsÂ have once again gone out of their way to place a virtual scarletÂ letter on lawÂ abiding firearm owners throughout the region,’ Ball wroteÂ on his Senate webÂ site.
The newspaper’s editor and viceÂ president ofÂ news, CynDee Royle, earlier in the week defended theÂ decision to list theÂ permit holders.
‘We knew publication of the databaseÂ wouldÂ be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as weÂ could about gunÂ ownership in our area was important in the aftermath ofÂ the Newtown shootings,’Â she said.
Some critics retaliated by postingÂ reporters’ and editors’ addresses and other personal informationÂ online.
Howard Good, a journalism professorÂ at theÂ State University of New York at New Paltz, called the critics’Â responseÂ childish and petulant.
It doesn’t move the issue of gunÂ control toÂ the level of intelligent public discussion,’ he said. ‘Instead, it transformsÂ what should be a rational public debate on aÂ contentious issue into ugly gutterÂ fighting.’
Good said the information about permitÂ holders was public and, if presented in context, served a legitimateÂ interest.
But media critic Al Tompkins of theÂ Florida-based Poynter Institute wrote online this week that theÂ newspaper’sÂ reporting had not gone far enough to justify the permitÂ holders’ loss ofÂ privacy.
‘If journalists could show flaws inÂ the gunÂ permitting system, that would be newsworthy,’ he said. ‘Or, forÂ example, if gunÂ owners were exempted from permits because of politicalÂ connections, thenÂ journalists could better justify the privacyÂ invasion.’
Tompkins said he feared the dispute mightÂ prompt lawmakers to play to privacy fears.
‘The net effect of the abuse of public records from all sides may well be a public distaste for openingÂ records,Â which would be the biggest mistake of all,’ he said.