The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., posted an interactive online map showing local gun-permit holders.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (LoHud.com) -- Thousands of people have taken to their computers and phones in rage after The Journal News posted an online database of local gun-permit holders.
database, legally obtained from the county clerks' offices through a
Freedom of Information Act request made after the shootings at Sandy
Hook (Conn.) Elementary School left 20 children and six staffers dead,
has been called irresponsible, dangerous and leaning toward intimidation
by online pundits.
Social media played a big part in the exponential spread of the story, whose map has been recommended more than 20,000 times.
additional comments relating to the gun-permit map have appeared on
posts in other unrelated articles. More than a dozen more people sent
private messages via Facebook objecting to the map. The overwhelming
majority of comments strongly object to the article.
database also was mentioned in the Drudge Report, Memorandum.com,
Breitbart.com, Thegatewaypundit.com, Instapundit, iOwnTheWorld.com and
UrbanGrounds, along with Yahoo, ABC News and Fox News, among others.
More than 500 comments -- on both sides of the debate -- accompanied an article on CNN.com Tuesday.
The Journal News is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., which is also the parent company of WTSP 10 News.
of callers have complained, claiming publication of the database put
their safety at risk or violated their privacy. Others claimed
publication was illegal. Many of the callers were vitriolic and some
threatened members of the newspaper staff.
"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.
Robert Freeman, executive
director of the state Committee on Open Government and an expert in the
state's Freedom of Information law, has said all government records and
data are presumed public unless a specific statute bars their release.
Names and addresses are specifically deemed public records, he said.
This is not the first time The Journal News has
been criticized for publishing information about gun permits. A similar
article in 2006 received similar responses, although social media did
not play as large a part in the spread of the article or of the
"We knew publication of the database would be
controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about
gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown
shootings," said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news.
are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in
their neighborhoods," she said. "Our Freedom of Information request also
sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned.
That portion of the request was denied."
Scott Williams, 41, of
Haddon Heights, N.J., who served in the Marines as a rifleman, was one
of the very few callers who agreed to identify themselves and comment on
why they called.
"This is what I see," he said. "It's all in the
context of the shootings in Newtown ... it gets us all talking about gun
control. That people are at a heightened concern makes sense to me. I
am a gun owner and a pro-Second-Amendment (person). I try to be
rational." He called the newspaper's decision to link to the database
"The implications are mind-boggling," he said.
"It's as if gun owners are sex offenders (and) to own a handgun risks
exposure as if one is a sex offender. It's, in my mind, crazy."