The New York newspaper that drew criticism for publishing the names and addresses of hundreds of legal gun permit holders is doubling down by publishing the personal information of even more law-abiding gun owners.
To great criticism, the Journal News published an interactive map showing the names and addresses of the legal gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties just before Christmas.
Now the paper has announced it will next publish the names and addresses of permit-holders in Putnam County with an eye toward eventually politicizing the names and addresses of every gun owner in the state.
The Journal News has defended its controversial violation of the privacy of New York’s legal gun owners by claiming that since the records are open to the public to find in government archives, they should be allowed to publish all the names and addresses.
New York State Senator Greg Ball slammed the Journal News, saying that the paper is treating law-abiding citizens like “sex offenders.”
“The asinine editors at The Journal News, have once again gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law abiding firearm owners throughout the region. The immediate elimination of the information posted on the Journal News Website is the only way we can ensure the safety and liberty of these New Yorkers,” said Mr. Ball in a statement. “This is clearly a violation of privacy, and needs to be corrected immediately. The same elitist egg heads who use their editorial page to coddle terrorists and criminals are now treating law abiding citizens like level three sexual predators.”
Others have said that the paper has put the lives of the state’s gun owners in danger by giving criminals a virtual map to their homes.
Several laws are being prepared in the state capital in Albany to make the names and addresses of the Empire State’s gun owners private.
Al Tompkins of the Florida-based Poynter Institute criticized his fellow journalists in New York for the publication of the gun owners’ names, worrying that this abuse of government open records would end up hurting the standing of open records laws with voters and politicians alike.
“I suspected that legislative backlash might follow, and it would be a worse mistake than publishing the data,” Tompkins said of the possible harm to such laws.
A similar situation threatened in Illinois in 2011. The Associated Press had asked anti-Second Amendment State Attorney General Lisa Madigan if it could publish the names and addresses of registered gun owners in Illinois; she agreed and ordered the state police to turn over the records. But the police refused to do so and pleaded with the state legislature to craft some legislation so that they wouldn’t have to.
Illinois State Senator Kirk Dillard obliged and a law was quickly written and passed to prevent the state from publicizing the names and address of Illinois gun owners. Even Illinois’ anti-gun governor saw the sense and political need to sign the bill.
Florida and Tennessee also protect the personal information of registered gun owners.