Editor’s note: Recently in the aftermath of the Newtown, CT mass shooting, the Journal News, a newspaper that publishes in Rockland and Westchester Counties, NY, posted an interactive map online with the names and addresses of local gun permit holders. This action has stirred up a firestorm, even making the national news. After much heated, negative response, the newspaper hired a private security company with armed guards to patrol its grounds. This letter to The River Reporter comes from one of our readers with ties to Narrowsburg, NY who lives in Westchester County.
I do not possess a handgun permit. However, I know lots of people in the Westchester area who do. I think your readers should understand a little bit about what they are going through thanks to the Journal News.
This is a good example. There is a constable in my village who has two grade-school children. Now when that family leaves their house, they have to worry if an anti-gun nut is waiting for them. In addition, they also have to worry that someone may try to break into their house to try and steal their gun. What the Journal News did was put families (including innocent children) in danger as well as to create emotional stress for them. You know very well that there are always going to be emotionally unstable people out there, both pro-gun and anti-gun. Some anti-gun individuals out there might be more worked up after the Newtown, CT shooting and will do something stupid. The Journal News created a public safety issue.
The Journal News has not responded to taking down the web page. In fact the paper keeps defending itself and is trying to get information for nearby Putnam County permits to post. Unfortunately, this has resulted in their opponents posting the paper's employees’ names so that they can feel the same fears and stress as the law abiding citizens with legal gun permits. This is a volatile situation that is just about to turn ugly with people having blood on their hands.
I understand that the paper legally obtained the information and does not appear to have broken any laws. However, it would be highly unlikely that criminals would have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get this information since it would leave a trail to them, or they most likely didn't even know they could do that. Now they have easy access to information that can be used for illegal purposes and there is no trail to them.
I just read an interesting comment. If the Journal News was really concerned about posting information for public safety, why didn't they post a list of people arrested for gun crimes. Wouldn't people want to know about individuals who have been charged with gun crimes that live in their neighborhood rather than their peaceful neighbor who possesses a legally obtained permit? To enhance their reporting, they could also report if those individuals (arrested for gun crimes) possessed hand gun permits and whether the guns were legal. This information could then support or refute the newspaper’s inference that legally owned guns are a threat to neighbors.