On Dec. 22, LoHud.com, powered by Journal News, released a story titled “Map: Where are the gun permits in your neighborhood?” Based on information acquired through the Freedom of Information requests made to Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties, the maps have dots that indicate and list the names and addresses of those in the community with permits for pistols or handguns.
The map, along with the accompanying article by Dwight R. Worley, “The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood,” have generated more angry comments about irresponsible journalism rather than support of publication of this type of information.
The paper has upheld its decision based on the public’s need to know and that the information IS public.
Opponents of the maps cite that not only does the information make gun owners the target of potential theft, it will make some unlikely to renew their permits when the time comes to do so. It will also likely make new owners hesitant to legally register their personal firearms. It also makes note of which homes do NOT have registered firearms, perhaps making them a larger potential target for crime.
From a journalistic standpoint, Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at The Poynter Institute, says the following:
Just because information is public does not make it newsworthy. People own guns for a wide range of law-abiding reasons. If you are not breaking the law, there is no compelling reason to publish the data.
Publishing gun owners’ names makes them targets for theft or public ridicule. It is journalistic arrogance to abuse public record privilege, just as it is to air 911 calls for no reason or to publish the home addresses of police or judges without cause.
What do you think? Does the public have the right to this kind of information? Is it continued sensationalism of a hot topic or is it the responsibility of the media to provide the community it serves with the information? Or is this an invasion of privacy and perhaps "journalistic arrogance"?