Journalists in White Plains, New York, are defending themselves today after publishing the names and addresses of those licensed to own guns.
Called “The gun owner next door: what you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood,” The Journal News published an interactive map that allows readers to click on marks that signify households with gun permits.
The information was all acquired legally through a Freedom of Information request, but that hasn’t stopped a flood of angry letters, emails, phone calls, online comments and tweets about the decision.
It also hasn’t forced the newspaper’s owners, Gannett, into removing the map from its website.
“New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.
The controversial article and accompanying multimedia effort came after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 28 people dead – 20 of them young children.
Hundreds are commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook page.
Reaction ranged from positive (“the public deserves to know”) to civilized criticism (“shame on you for letting the criminals know which homes to rob to get weapons”) to enraged (“no better than Hitler”).
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The map covers Westchester and Rockland counties, and doesn’t publish information about types or numbers of guns.
The newspaper also reminded readers that the map doesn’t say if any guns exist in the homes, but only that someone in the home has received a permit.
It found 44,000 permits on record, or 1 in 23 adults, in the Lower Hudson Valley north of New York City.
Not all journalists saw reason for the map, CNN reported.
Al Tompkins, a faculty member at the Poynter Institute for reporters and editors, called it “journalistic arrogance.”
“Publishing gun owners’ names makes them targets for theft or public ridicule,” he said, according to CNN.
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