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Publication of Gun Map Stirs Debate

A newspaper and online publication in the Hudson Valley has made headlines coast-to-coast for an interactive map it published online. That map indicates the names and addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, with Putnam County to come. The publication of the map has elicited outcry, and started a national discourse on many topics, ranging from privacy to safety to the public’s right to know.  

Journal News Media Group President and Publisher Janet Hasson posted a statement on The Journal News Facebook page last evening regarding their decision to publish a digital database of Westchester and Rockland county gun-permit holders. It reads:  "Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."

The posting elicited some 300 comments in three hours. A request for further comment from Hasson was not answered in time for this broadcast.

The Journal News submitted Freedom of Information requests for the names and addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, and by state law, the information is public record.  Some of the backlash includes questions of privacy invasion and safety, a concern echoed by the National Rifle Association. Here’s NRA spokeswoman Stephanie Samford.

Mike Spain is the associate editor of the Time-Union newspaper in Albany, New York.  He says he applauds the decision to publish the interactive gun map.

Ira Fusfeld is the publisher emeritus of “The Daily Freeman” out of Kingston, New York.  And while he says it was the right of the “The Journal News” editors to publish what they did, he raises the following issue.

The article does not compare the current number of gun-permit holders with past numbers. It does say that about 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam — one out of every 23 adults — are licensed to own a handgun.

Dave Workman is the Bellevue, Washington-based senior editor for the Buffalo, New York-based publication, “TheGunMag”.  He’s also a spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, in Bellevue, Washington. He acknowledges the right of the Journal News to publish what they did, however:

Some of the backlash to the gun-map publication has been the threat of lawsuits, and of publishing personal information about Journal News staffers. In fact, one blogger has mimicked the interactive gun map, and posted an interactive map of the residences of Journal News employees.