December 30, 2012
Fallout from the publication of the names and addresses of some New York handgun permit holders by a local newspaper continues to grow, as shock has turned to outrage amid calls for legal action against the paper’s editors.
As we reported earlier, The Journal News made the incredibly stupid decision to publish the names of handgun-permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York State.
The paper, which obtained permit-holder information through a Freedom of Information Act request, immediately began figuratively drawing fire from readers and other citizens concerned about the blatant violation of a permit holder’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy – angst which has only exploded since (As an aside, those of you who support gun registration need to consider the distinct possibility that you could be just a FOIA request away from being outed as a gun owner to potential criminals and burglars).
AMI Global Security, which published an article condemning the “massive privacy breach” that is “meant to intimidate the lawful” and “abrogate the Bill of Rights,” gathered just a few of the initial comments:
It is as if they put out an ad to jewel thieves listing the names and addresses of where to find diamonds and cash.
Now everyone knows where the LEGAL GUNS are kept, a valuable piece of information for criminals. Why don’t you do something helpful, like trying to find out where the ILLEGAL GUNS are kept? That would be helpful to the non-criminal population.
If the homeowner is killed or injured, will LOHUD be charged as an accomplice to the crime?
This is CRAZY!! Why in the world would you post every licensed gun owner information?? What do you hope to accomplish by doing this? This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders not law abiding gun owners. What next? Should I hang a flag outside my house that says I own a gun?
The gun owner has an added responsibility to take all measures that their firearms do not fall into the hands of such miscreants. Beside the natural precautions, they cannot permit themselves to fall hostage in trade for access to their firearms locks.
The paper published the names and addresses of legal handgun permit holders in the form of an interactive Web-based map; when you click on a red dot signifying a permit holder, a window box pops up providing the holder’s name and address.
It’s not the first time The Journal News has done something this callous and stupid regarding gun ownership; in 2006 the paper pulled a similar stunt, but only published permit holder’s names and municipalities, not their specific addresses.
“This is what I see,” Scott F. Williams, 41, of Haddon Heights, N.J., near Philadelphia, who served in the Marines as a rifleman, told the paper. “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.”
But, continuing, he described the paper’s insane decision to publish names and addresses “highly Orwellian” and simply “mind-boggling.”
“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,” he said, according to the paper.
Is publication of names and addresses even legal?
The map and accompanying short story were published under the headline: “The Gun-Owner Next Door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.” In trying to justify their horrendous decision, the paper’s editors explained it stemmed from the recent massacre of 20 Kindergarten children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, Conn., in mid-December, and – supposedly – the concern expressed by some area residents about which of their neighbors might have guns (as if it that private information is any of their business).
In our initial coverage of this story we advocated for the affected permit holders to pursue some sort of legal action against this paper for what appears to be a blatant violation of their constitutional right to privacy.
The paper is defending its actions by noting that the information they published was legally obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. But obtaining information and publishing said information are two separate issues and should be addressed as such.
In that vein, we note that there is nothing in any report regarding this story that says permit holders previously agreed to allow the publication of their names and addresses as part of the process of applying for and obtaining said permit. So we are in the process of attempting to find out; we await answers from Rockland and Westchester counties.
If gun permit holders in these counties are consenting, as part of the application process, to allowing publication of their names and addresses, we’re betting most of them don’t know that – but should.