Newspaper's gun-permit map creates backlash

New York TimesDecember 26, 2012 

A newspaper’s interactive map listing the names and addresses of gun permit holders in two New York counties has drawn a gathering avalanche of outrage this week.

As word spread across social media, thousands left comments expressing disbelief and anger at the map, compiled from publicly available information on handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties and published online over the weekend by The Journal News, a newspaper based in White Plains, N.Y., and owned by Gannett.

The clickable map is made up of thousands of dots, each representing a permit holder; by clicking the dots, users can view the name and address of each permit holder. Rifle and shotgun owners were not included because, the newspaper noted, those guns can be purchased without a permit.

“Being included in this map does not mean the individual at a specific location owns a weapon, just that they are licensed to do so,” The Journal News cautioned.

The map thrust the paper directly into the heated national debate over guns that has followed the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“Now everyone knows where the LEGAL GUNS are kept, a valuable piece of information for criminals,” wrote an irate Facebook commenter who gave his name as Mike Pandolfo. “Why don’t you do something helpful, like trying to find out where the ILLEGAL GUNS are kept? That would be helpful to the noncriminal population.”

Reaction swift, negative

The comment was characteristic of the reaction of many of the thousands that had been attached to the article as it flew around social networking and news organizations’ sites, seemingly shared more in outrage than in support.

The map – followed by an article published online Sunday titled “The Gun Owner Next Door: What You Don’t Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood” – also includes dozens of permit holders who reside outside the two counties, including at least 15 in New York City and several in Connecticut and New Jersey.

In an editor’s note published with the article, the newspaper said that the author of the article, Dwight R. Worley, is himself the owner of a handgun.

Editors at the newspaper and representatives at Gannett did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment.

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