NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Reuters) – A suburban New York newspaperÂ that sparked an uproar among gun enthusiasts by publishing namesÂ and addresses of residents holding pistol permits is nowÂ planning to publish even more identities of permit-totingÂ locals.
Further names and addresses will be added as they becomeÂ available to a map originally published on Dec. 24 in the WhiteÂ Plains, New York-based Journal News, the newspaper said.
The original map listed thousands of pistol permit holdersÂ in suburban Westchester and Rockland counties just north of NewÂ York City.
Along with an article entitled “The gun owner next door:Â What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood,” theÂ map was compiled in response to the Dec. 14 shooting deaths ofÂ 26 children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, editors of theÂ Gannett Corp.-owned newspaper said.
The next batch of names will be permit holders in suburbanÂ Putnam County, New York, where the county clerk told theÂ newspaper it is still compiling information.
Some 44,000 people are licensed to own pistols in the threeÂ counties, the newspaper said. Owners of rifles and shotguns doÂ not need permits, the newspaper said. The publication prompted outrage, particularly on socialÂ media sites, among gun owners.
“Do you fools realize that you also made a map for criminalsÂ to use to find homes to rob that have no guns in them to protectÂ themselves?” Rob Seubert of Silver Spring, Maryland, posted onÂ the newspaper’s web site. “What a bunch of liberal boobs you allÂ are.”
Republican state Senator Greg Ball of Patterson, New York,Â said he planned to introduce legislation to keep permitÂ information private except to prosecutors and police.
A similar bill that he introduced earlier as an AssemblymanÂ failed in the state Assembly. “The asinine editors at the Journal News have once againÂ gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on lawÂ abiding firearm owners throughout the region,” Ball wrote on hisÂ Senate web site.
The newspaper’s editor and vice president of news, CynDeeÂ Royle, earlier in the week defended the decision to list theÂ permit holders.
“We knew publication of the database would be controversial,Â but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gunÂ ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of theÂ Newtown shootings,” she said.
Some critics retaliated by posting reporters’ and editors’Â addresses and other personal information online.
Howard Good, a journalism professor at the State UniversityÂ of New York at New Paltz, called the critics’ response childishÂ and petulant.
“It doesn’t move the issue of gun control to the level ofÂ intelligent public discussion,” he said. “Instead, it transformsÂ what should be a rational public debate on a contentious issueÂ into ugly gutter fighting.”
Good said the information about permit holders was publicÂ and, if presented in context, served a legitimate interest.
But media critic Al Tompkins of the Florida-based PoynterÂ Institute wrote online this week that the newspaper’s reportingÂ had not gone far enough to justify the permit holders’ loss ofÂ privacy.
“If journalists could show flaws in the gun permittingÂ system, that would be newsworthy,” he said. “Or, for example, ifÂ gun owners were exempted from permits because of politicalÂ connections, then journalists could better justify the privacyÂ invasion.”
Tompkins said he feared the dispute might prompt lawmakersÂ to play to privacy fears.
“The net effect of the abuse of public records from allÂ sides may well be a public distaste for opening records, whichÂ would be the biggest mistakeÂ of all,” he said.
Source: The Huffington Post