Downstate newspaper pulls gun owner database

Friday, January 18, 2013
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— A suburban New York newspaper that outraged gun owners by posting the names and addresses of residents with handgun permits removed the information from its website today.

The Journal News took down the data just three days after the state enacted a gun control law that included privacy provisions for permit holders.

The provisions were a reaction to interactive maps the newspaper published on that pinpointed thousands of permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties.

Gun rights activists had immediately complained that permit owners’ privacy was being violated. They said the map could guide burglars to their homes while police groups claimed the map could lead ex-convicts to the officers who had put them away.

The addresses of some Journal News staffers were posted online, and threats were called in to the newspaper’s offices. The newspaper hired armed guards in response.

Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement, “While the new law does not require us to remove the data, we believe that doing so complies with its spirit.”

She said the maps had been viewed nearly 1.2 million times since they were published Dec. 23. The newspaper sought the records under the state Freedom of Information Law after the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman who had killed his mother at home killed 20 first-graders and six educators and then committed suicide.

The maps remained online late Friday but could no longer be manipulated to find names and addresses.

State Sen. Greg Ball, the most vocal opponent of the posting, said, “Thank God The Journal News has finally realized the error in their judgment and done the right thing. ... I am proud to have passed legislation keeping The Journal News from doing this ever again.”

On Tuesday, as part of a gun control bill, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed new regulations that give permit holders several ways to opt out of the public record.

Applicants can ask to be exempted because they are police officers or served on criminal-case juries or are victims of domestic violence. They also can just say they might be subjected to harassment.

Hasson said Friday, “One of our core missions as a newspaper is to empower our readers with as much information as possible on the critical issues they face, and guns have certainly become a top issue since the massacre in nearby Newtown, Conn.”

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January 19, 2013
5:04 p.m.
Sparkys_Dad says...

Thank God for State Sen. Greg Ball. Posting the names was the stupidest thing ever concocted. The Journal News jeopardized the lives of our law enforcement officers and their families. How terribly irresponsible and idiotic. What the heck were they thinking? They weren't thinking. There should be penalties for engaging in such irresponsible, knee-jerk reactions. All because of the alleged tragedy in CT. We are all slowly finding out what really happened there and it does not look pretty. Shame on the Journal's editors. Shame on us all for allowing such a thing to go on unchecked. We need more politicians like Senator Ball.

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