Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should
Published: Thursday, January 10th, 2013
There has been a lot of controversy and threats of violence after a New York daily newspaper recently published data online with the names and location of some 44,000 registered handgun owners in their circulation area. The Gannett Co.-owned Journal News based in White Plains, N.Y., used the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to obtain the data on handgun owners in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, just north of New York City. Officials in the adjacent Putnam County refused to provide the information and face possible criminal charges for not complying with the newspaper’s FOI request.
The newspaper’s editorial stand reportedly is anti-gun, publishing articles calling for all firearm owners, not just those with concealed carry weapons permits, to be catalogued and mapped. They say all gun owers should be mapped so anti-gun citizens can “know who their neighbors are” and the “possible danger that surrounds them.” This is an interesting line of urban thought that prompted a flurry of denunciations from both sides of the gun control camp.
Those who were not identified as registered handgun owners are now fearful that thieves may target their homes as easy pickings. Those legitimate gun owners who were “outed” by the newspaper fear that thieves may target their homes when they are gone and try to find and steal their weapons. Gun owners say the newspaper is treating them as potential threats, like convicted pedophiles or other sex offenders. They say they are considered guilty until proven innocent.
The newspaper received so many threatening phone calls after publishing the names and addresses of these gun owners that, ironically, it had to hire armed security guards to patrol its grounds day and night. In retaliation, the names and addresses of the newspaper’s executives were soon posted on the internet.
A New York State Senator went on television backing the officials of Putnam County for not providing the requested information to the newspaper and called for readers to cancel their subscriptions to the Journal News. He said he would introduce legislation preventing the publication of lawful gun owners’ names and addresses.
The newspaper’s FOI request was a legitimate one that legally had to be granted. We don’t understand what editors thought they would accomplish by publishing this information, which is not readily available to the public. We believe the intention was to intimidate gun owners and somehow make them feel uncomfortable about having a gun in their possession. This action may have caused more grief, trouble and ill feelings than it was worth.
Sometimes in this business, just because you can do something legally, doesn’t mean you should.
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