ONTD Political

Gun Map: Article Publishes Names and Addresses of People with Firearms Licenses in Two New York Coun

1:06 pm - 12/26/2012
First up:
The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood
gun-mapIn May, Richard V. Wilson approached a female neighbor on the street and shot her in the back of the head, a crime that stunned their quiet Katonah neighborhood.

What was equally shocking for some was the revelation that the mentally disturbed 77-year-old man had amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.

“I think that the access to guns in this country is ridiculous, that anybody can get one,” said a neighbor of Wilson’s who requested anonymity because it’s not known whether the gunman, whose unnamed victim survived, will return home or be sent to prison. “Would I have bought this house knowing somebody (close by) had an arsenal of weapons? No, I would not have.”

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and amid renewed nationwide calls for stronger gun control, some Lower Hudson Valley residents would like lawmakers to expand the amount of information the public can find out about gun owners. About 44,000 people in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam — one out of every 23 adults — are licensed to own a handgun.

Anyone can find out the names and addresses of handgun owners in any county with a simple Freedom of Information Law request, and the state’s top public records expert told The Journal News last week that he thinks the law does not bar the release of other details. But officials in county clerk’s offices in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam maintain the public does not have a right to see such things as the specific permits an individual has been issued, the types of handguns a person possesses or the number of guns he or she owns — whether one or a dozen.

Combined with laws that allow the purchase of rifles and shotguns without a permit, John Thompson, a program manager for Project SNUG at the Yonkers Family YMCA, said that leaves the public knowing little about the types of deadly weapons that might be right next door.

“I would love to know if someone next to me had guns. It makes me safer to know so I can deal with that,” said Thompson, whose group counsels youths against gun violence. “I might not choose to live there.”


The followup:
Journal News' gun-owner database draws criticism

Thousands of people, many from outside Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, have taken to their computers and phones in rage after The Journal News posted an online database of local gun-permit holders.

The database, legally obtained from the County Clerks’ Offices through a Freedom of Information Act request made after the shootings in Sandy Hook, Conn., that left 20 children and eight adults dead, has been called irresponsible, dangerous and leaning toward intimidation by online pundits.

Social media played a big part in the exponential spread of the story, whose map has been recommended more than 20,000 times. Two Facebook posts linking to the article on Sunday garnered 346 comments as of Tuesday evening. That’s in addition to 167 comments posted directly to Facebook.com/LoHud since the article was published.

Numerous additional comments relating to the gun-permit map have appeared on posts in other unrelated articles. More than a dozen more people sent private messages via Facebook objecting to the map. The overwhelming majority of comments strongly object to the article.

The database also was mentioned in the Drudge Report, Memorandum.com, Breitbart.com, Thegatewaypundit.com, Instapundit, iOwnTheWorld.com and UrbanGrounds, along with Yahoo, ABC News and Fox News, among others.

More than 500 comments — on both sides of the debate — accompanied an article on CNN.com Tuesday evening.

Hundreds of callers have complained, claiming publication of the database put their safety at risk or violated their privacy. Others claimed publication was illegal. Many of the callers were vitriolic and some threatened members of the newspaper staff.

“New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Govenment and an expert in the state’s Freedom of Information law, has said all government records and data are presumed public unless a specific statute bars their release. Names and addresses are specifically deemed public records, he said.

This is not the first time The Journal News has been criticized for publishing information about gun permits. A similar article in 2006 received similar responses, although social media did not play as large a part in the spread of the article or of the complaints.

“We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said CynDee Royle, editor and vice president/news.

“People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods,” she said. “Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.”

Scott F. Williams, 41, of Haddon Heights, N.J., who served in the Marines as a rifleman, was one of the very few callers who agreed to identify themselves and comment on why they called.

“This is what I see,” he said. “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.” He called the newspaper’s decision to link to the database “highly Orwellian.”

“The implications are mind-boggling,” he said. “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.”


Comments at the sources rapidly devolve into wank, view at your own discretion.

Despite the potential for wank, I think this poses a very good question: if we're going to advocate for serious gun control in the US, surely a part of that is total registration of all firearms. Should those records be private, or available to the public? If the records should be public, how much of the information should be available? How easily should it be available (e.g. should you have to file a request, or should it be published in a searchable web page)?
mastadge 27th-Dec-2012 02:21 am (UTC)
Wouldn't making gun registration information freely available to the public on a website make it easier for those without guns who want them (or those with them who don't want to use their own registered weapons) to find them?
anolinde 27th-Dec-2012 02:24 am (UTC)
Exactly what I was going to say. Nothing like having a handy database of places to steal guns from...
alexvdl 27th-Dec-2012 02:35 am (UTC)
I don't think that having a public register of who has what valuable and/or dangerous items where is a good idea.
idemandjustice 27th-Dec-2012 02:59 am (UTC)
What could possibly go wrong with that?
lilyginny27 27th-Dec-2012 02:55 am (UTC)
If interest groups can send my neighbors a list of which elections I have voted in or not, than yes, I believe this should be public information, too.
moonshaz 27th-Dec-2012 08:39 pm (UTC)
Not unless two wrongs actually DO make a right, which last time I checked was not the case.
(no subject) - Anonymous
juel1979 27th-Dec-2012 04:38 am (UTC)
It's a shaming, since lots of people tend to have that stereotype in their head of the "silly paranoid gun hoarder who thinks he's gonna take on the government!" much like the welfare queen trope that pops up.

Also, it just seems like authors trying to be edgy or something, but having no foresight, not realizing that those names are people, and those people probably have valid reasons for firearms, or may just have a collection that gets trotted out to be cleaned or maybe taken out to a range once in a blue moon. Not every person on that list is sitting there polishing their gun, just WAITING for an excuse to use it. I'd be on one of these lists if I chose to get my concealed carry permit, which I've just not chosen to get. I can legally, but I feel meh about it. LOL

I'm not having much luck in a google search of crimes involving registered guns versus unregistered. One site said it's better to search for crimes committed by previous felons with guns, as those folks cannot legally own a gun.
free_spoons 27th-Dec-2012 04:02 am (UTC)
One one hand, I feel like a lot of other people posting before me, this could just be used as a searchable list of places you could steal guns from.

On the other hand, if I was moving into a neighborhood or apartment building, and saw that X% of my new neighbors were gun owners and how many guns they owned, I might reconsider where I want to live. (or be more likely to want to live there)
ladypolitik 27th-Dec-2012 04:05 am (UTC)
I dont see this having the same utility and impact as say, a public database of convicted sex offenders does. In fact, this strikes me as being backfire-ingly dangerous, to be honest.

Beyond those reactions, holy fuck, that is some serious gun-nuttery. All of the sudden, the alarmingly high stats on American gun-related deaths (accidental or otherwise) seem crystal clear.

Edited at 2012-12-27 04:06 am (UTC)
akisawana 27th-Dec-2012 04:12 am (UTC)
I didn't get a choice about my mental illness and they not only want to put my name on a list, they want me locked up. These people choose to own guns, which makes them far more likely to hurt others than people on the "crazy" list, they can deal with the consequences of their choice.
juel1979 27th-Dec-2012 04:26 am (UTC)
We had a somewhat local paper decide to post names and addresses of gun owners. Several were women who had been in abusive relationships who had to relocate cause now their abusers could find them and their children again. Not the best idea in that regard.

Not all people who choose to own a weapon are completely obsessed with having a cache of weapons for doomsday/government uprising. Some are those who live alone who want to protect themselves, some are the abused who want to have the protection in case they are found, due to the life and death nature of what could occur, and may have occurred, (like those who complained about the article locally), some hunt, some shoot competitively. I won't say all have perfect reasons behind gun ownership, but people pinning a fringe mindset on everyone who owns guns is as silly as saying all those on welfare drive Escalades and replace their phones every three months with the latest and greatest.

There really is no easy answer to the issue and I have no idea how the whole argument will go. No matter what, someone's rights are gonna be fucked/infringed upon in some way, and that's just plain ugly. =(
juel1979 27th-Dec-2012 04:28 am (UTC)
I hope this doesn't deteriorate like the situation we had locally years ago, where a somewhat local paper published names and addresses of gun owners (CDL carriers to be exact). Several women came forward and were freaked out because they had to suddenly move, as their locations were now publicly out there and they had escaped abusive situations and were carrying for protection against the off chance they got found. =(
emofordino 27th-Dec-2012 04:41 am (UTC)
oh my god that is awful, wtf. i hope those women were able to keep themselves safe despite the security breach. :(
forevertiffanys 27th-Dec-2012 07:48 am (UTC)
OMG from a dumb ass bitch on my facebook:

"Okay the world didn't end this past week. But it sure became more crazy... This made me perk an eyebrow. I saw the map and boy... it would suck to not own a gun because now the crooks have pin-pointed where they live. :/ I know the information is "public-domain" but really?? I get it, we are ALL traumatized from Newtown, but that doesn't mean people who own guns are ALL crazy. If we all were, then why are there so many stories out there where crimes have been PREVENTED because of concealed carry persons? But no.. those stories don't make it out because it's actually a Heroic story and remember tragedy always brings more ratings... Seriously, if people are going to hate guns, do some research on BOTH sides before making a judgment call on them and the people that own them."

I cannot even.
I feel like this will do the exact opposite because now people will know where to get guns.
zinnia_rose 27th-Dec-2012 08:12 am (UTC)
She sounds like a real piece of work, but calling her a bitch doesn't help anything. Her being a woman has nothing to do with her being an asshole.
zinnia_rose 27th-Dec-2012 08:10 am (UTC)
I'm all for gun control, but this is a pretty crappy idea for all the reasons mentioned upthread. If Psycho Steve is planning on shooting up an elementary school, it'd be pretty damned handy for him to have a nice little database of all the places he can go to steal a gun. :/
mildmag 27th-Dec-2012 09:27 am (UTC)
I don't see why this is such a concern here.

There is no incentive to go through the trouble and danger of stealing guns when you can buy them hassle-free and completely legally anytime you want.

I really don't think that's the problem with this list.
mahsox_mahsox 27th-Dec-2012 10:31 am (UTC)
There are problems with making the information public, but then again... I've occasionally lived next to families who run at a high anger level and I think if I lived in a high gun-ownership environment like the USA, in that situation I'd really want to be able to find out if my angry neighbors had a gun or not.
brookiki TW: Domestic Violence27th-Dec-2012 12:01 pm (UTC)
The problem, though, when you're talking about publishing this information on a website or in an article is that you aren't looking at the competing interests and relative burdens. So you would like to know whether your neighbors have a gun. Okay, that's fair. But what if your neighbor has a gun because her ex-husband has put her in the hospital previously and threatened to kill her if he finds her again? Or what if your neighbor works with Planned Parenthood and has had his family threatened already? Or if your neighbor is a social worker or a lawyer that works with domestic violence victims and abused children and has been threatened before? Or someone that works with GLBT rights? And if all of those people have taken all the reasonable precautions (gun safes, security systems, restraining orders and EPOs appropriate) and have taken the additional precaution of keeping their address as private as possible, only to wake up and find out that their home address has now been published in the newspaper?

In those cases, your desire to know if your neighbors own a gun because it might potentially affect your safety or the safety of some group or person your neighbor talks about shouldn't trump the actual safety of someone who has previously been attacked or threatened with violence.
crossfire 27th-Dec-2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
Late to my own post, fml. It's okay though, y'all have pretty much covered what I wanted to say. I'm particularly happy to see that we're not loosing sight of how publishing information like this could affect people who are marginalized. That gets glossed over (if it's even mentioned) in almost every other conversation I've ever seen about gun control.
juel1979 27th-Dec-2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm seriously heartened by this as well. =) I was worried people would look at the surface and be like "Good!" Usually I'm the worst at looking at just the surface of things and running with it (something I've been working on the past few years LOL).
hellaine 27th-Dec-2012 06:52 pm (UTC)

Edited at 2012-12-27 06:54 pm (UTC)
hellaine 27th-Dec-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Well, I think this is wrong. I don't want my mental health made public and put on a map, I don't think gun ownership should be made public and put on a map in this way as stated above. For many of the reasons others have stated also, TBH, it doesn't really do me much good or make me feel safer or in more danger anyway, as I already assume that basically the majority of people around me are probably gun owners haha. This is shocking or helpful information to me, but can be harmful to some people.
bestdaywelived 27th-Dec-2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
I would want to know which of my neighbors had guns so I could know to avoid them. It makes sense to me.

I don't enter homes with guns in them unless a.) they are hunting rifles only and b.) they are in a very secure, very locked gun safe.

One of my former supervisors actually brought a gun to the office on a few occasions because we had a terrifying client who kept showing up and making threats, and we were worried he would escalate it. That didn't bother me because he had a fingerprint safe.
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