Does the Media Have the Responsibility and Right to Publish the Names of Gun Owners?

In the wake of the murders in Connecticut, the Journal News ran a story with the names and addresses of gunowners in Westchester and Rockland counties.

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"?

Jeff Allen December 28, 2012 at 01:59 PM
A right....yes they do and yet I think Al Tompkins states it best as quoted in the article above. Even the right to free speech can be used a way that could be bring unintended consequences to others.
Gail Lane December 28, 2012 at 02:47 PM
It would seem the bloggers have taken it upon themselves to map out the homes of the staff on the newspaper ... http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/27/us/new-york-gun-permit-map/index.html?hpt=hp_c2 Bloggers and newspapers. There's a question of the day in there somewhere.
Fred Smith December 28, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Personally I am all about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But with anything that freedom can be abused, on the speech side look at Westboro Baptist Church. On the Freedon of the Press side, this article explains poor taste in journalism. There will be unintended consequences for articles such as these and a small battle between the general population and the crap writers out there has ensued because of it. I really don't think people who have gun permits will not get a gun permit again because of this, that would be stupid on their part. The whole purpose of small arms that can be concealed is for personal protection. Although, it would be better for them to not renew so that no one knows how many guns they have. It is our duty as protectors of our homes to own a firearm or other forms of protection. I have worked for a security company that installed security systems in homes. There have been more times than I would care to discuss where I went into a home after it had been burglarized. There was one where I was not allowed to go in because someone had broken into the home, with the people there and shot the husband, who had a baseball bat. It would have been a much different story if he had a gun and proper training with that weapon. Disgusting if you ask me, what happens to our unarmed civilian population. I will close with, this is journalism arrogance at its finest and I expect we will see more as the gun battle continues on.
Tammy Osier December 28, 2012 at 03:34 PM
A careful study of freddom of speech shows that it really has nothing to do with any of this. It is the right of a free people to redress their government without fear of imprisonment. How far we've skewed it to apply to just about anything. Jeff is right about the consequences... I'm not sure how, but I think motive could be proven in this. It's not the right of people to know. If that was the case, two sides would have been presented. Two of the people on that list were abused wives who had moved to keep their ex's from finding them. If something happens to either of them, if I were them or their families, I'd sue til they had nothing left but their underwear. I think you could prove that one easily. It's disgusting that a paper can hide behind a right, but that's what we've come to expect from a certain side of the spectrum - immaturity and revenge.
Tammy Osier December 28, 2012 at 03:56 PM
@ Gail. Do we know what the response to that was yet? I read that and his blog was called, "Sauce for the Goose". LOL I hate that I get some kind of perverse pleasure ot of it, but I do. It's about time someone fought back. The (some) media has way too much power and influence and allowed to operate with a lack of responsibility. Probably boycotting the paper or their advertisers might be a better way to go.
Ed Thomas December 28, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I doubt seriously the Founding Fathers ever envisioned freedom of the press going this far. Is it legal, yes. Is it moral or ethical, NO! It is a press with an agenda against guns that took advantage of the mass murders in Connectict to further that agenda. Seems like an unbiased press is a thing of the past. When your are not very good at reporting the news---just make something up. A note on the gun issue: According to the FBI, the number 1 weapon used in violent crimes…is a baseball bat. WHY is there NO outcry to RESTRICT baseball ownership? Anyone want to go after baseball bats? The worst part about them is tens of thousands of them are in the hands of children. OMG! Maybe because so many law-abiding citizens enjoy them safely, for sport? Hmmmm!
Tammy Osier December 28, 2012 at 04:18 PM
@ Ed Thomas. Excellent post!
Marne M December 28, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Many of them were also former Law Enforcement Officers who retained a permit after retirement. I've put a number of very bad individuals in prison during my time as an Officer. While yes, there are probably other means of finding out where I live, I'd really rather not make it any easier than it needs to be. Just because something is legal, doesn't necessarily mean it is ethical. I suppose this newspaper had a "right" to publish the information. But I think it was a poor decision that has the potential to put legal, law-abiding citizens at risk.
Tammy Osier December 28, 2012 at 05:49 PM
@ Marne - I read that too. It's a shame really. people who gave their lives to Law Enforcement deserve to have a peaceful retirement. When working with juveniles and gang members, I was aware that they could easily find out where I lived if they had a mind to. But, to publish that so boldly, is almost an invitation of sorts (to the unstable mind). Extremely unethical and irresponsible.
Jeffrey Allen December 28, 2012 at 06:03 PM
That whole "can vs should" dilemma...yes you can, but...should you publish private information on people who have done nothing wrong? I think not.
James Smith December 28, 2012 at 06:54 PM
The constitution gave us rights that we should all take seriously. Alot of people have been programmed to think it is ok to do the wrong things. We need to take a hard look the media has lied to the public and is owned by the people destroying our country. I say kick them out of the USA , Honor God and the Constitution. We have taken God out of everything what do people expect the outcome might be. Stand up America Keep the Constitiution as is and Boycott the media.
Alexander Williams December 28, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Perhaps LoHud has provided a public service, here, providing criminals with a "you may should avoid these houses at all costs" map. As a first pass, were I considering doing some daylight robberies, I might cross-check to keep my risks low. Sucks for everyone else in those neighborhoods, though ...
Ben December 29, 2012 at 12:17 PM
All of this is about the shooting of the 20 Children & 6 Adults several weeks ago, which was a Very bad day for all of the worlds people, I to, do not like gun violance. Have you looked at Drunk Drivers, They Kill 40 + People a day each day of the week plus hurt a lot of people, cause a lot of damage, Why don't they call on the newspapers to print the names and address of the Drunks that have been arrested for DUI or Public Drunkness Plus the Night Clubs or Bars, Liquor & Beer Stores that sold them the Beverages, They Tell the Names & Address of the Sex offenders. I have no problem with a gun permit, I have one, The People who apply for a permit do have back ground checks, If you have committed a crime or several other things, they will come get you, you have to have a clean record, so a lot of people that have guns don't apply for a permit, because of this. But they have Guns anyway. I would reather have a registered Gun owner living next to me than a Drunk or Sex offender. If you want to stop the 40 plus killing a day in the U S A have a Liqour & Beer Control First. Year ago a Drunk Driver coming back from a sports avent, Killed a Mother & 3 Children, this is just as back as what happened in the Schools
Karsten Torch December 29, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Ben and Ed - This push from the government has nothing to do with actually solving a problem. I can assure you that they have no intention of solving any problems. It's about power. It's about that thorn in their side, those that are able to protect themselves from the abuses of government, those that keep this country from sliding downhill into the morass of evil and chaos, those are the ones they're after with this latest attempt to get all the guns. Until we actually turn that corner past being able to help ourselves, we will never be truly dependent on government. They want to coddle us, to nanny us, and until they take away our last means of self preservation, they're unable to do that to the extent they want to. Never mind that data that says they're wrong. Never mind the countless examples that show they're doing the wrong thing. The media is completely on their side. And I just haven't yet figured out why. Maybe because a nation in crisis makes for better news. And yes, I know at this point I should probably be wearing my tinfoil hat. But remember, you're not paranoid if somebody's actually following you....
Elizabeth December 29, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I totally agree, Jeffrey.
Karsten Torch December 29, 2012 at 03:07 PM
That's the other part of it though, Jeff. They (liberals, the media) think that these people ARE doing wrong.
Tammy Osier December 29, 2012 at 03:54 PM
@ karsten. 100% on the money. It's about power and a nation in crisis makes better news. About the tin foil hats...then I guess we should change all those pictures of our founding fathers to have muskets and tin foil hats. The fact that is HAS happened before is precisely why we have to fight to preserve it. The left are of a mindset that you get something and someone else will preserve it for you. Or, you just rewrite history or pretend it never happened. No....it (freedom) is given to all of us, and we were admonished that wolves will always be at the door to take it from us, therefore the need to preserve it. "Give me liberty or give me death?" Sound like a guy who needs a tin foil hat?
Amy December 29, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I want to know who has a permit to bear firearms in my neighborhood. That way I can run to your house for help if I'm being attacked.
Tammy Osier December 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
@ Amy lol
Robbi McCaig December 29, 2012 at 09:52 PM
I think it very fair for the blogger to run the names of the so-called journalists who write more opinion columns than news. It's about time the right fights the left with the same dirty tactics being used against them.
Mr. B December 29, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Drop by my house anytime Amy. I'm married. I'd probably find you attractive. LOL
Xardox December 30, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Putting out a newspaper used to be a hazardous occupation, digging for such details people really wanted to know (Did the bride wear white?) at the risk of tar and feathers, in a time men took firearms to church regularly. Just because something is technically feasible doesn't make it a great idea. Do you really want them to know you DON'T have a gun?
Mike Smith December 31, 2012 at 03:25 PM
It seems that this entire conversation is missing the foundation of the debate. Why do most of us just assume that it is OK for the government to hold this personal information in a public fashion the first place? While government background checks for carry permits are necessary, there is no good reason the results of these checks must be held for public display. After the check is complete and the permit issued this data should be sealed like our medical records and IRS files - This small change would resolve the entire issue.
Tammy Osier December 31, 2012 at 03:45 PM
MS, very insightful. It's a shame that we have come to the place where we can be taxed unreasonably and think it's normal. We give up our right to privacy and don't blink. We've done it for so long that it becomes normal. That's how governments get the power that they do- the people voluntarily give it up without a fight. But those who fight it are told that they wear tin foil hats.
Jim S December 31, 2012 at 04:19 PM
We just had an article in the Patch about a local gun shop getting robbed. Publishing the addresses of residences of license holders, in which there are probably guns, will subject homeowners to this same possibility. The robbery happened at around 1 am in the morning, a time during which most homeowners are asleep in bed.


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