Editors at Journal News taking heat from coast to coast for interactive map listing gun permit holders’ names and addresses. First Amendment protects local publication’s war against second amendment
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
In the wake of the Newtown massacre, the bright lights at Gannett’s The Journal News decided it was high time to criminalize ordinary, law-abiding gun owners in the area.
Under the guise of providing “public information,” the Journal News’ editorial hit squad, led by publisher/hitwoman Janet Hasson, created an interactive digital map on their lohud.com website showing the exact address of every pistol permit holder in Rockland and Westchester County.
A sharp, negative reaction to the map spread across not only Rockland and Westchester Counties, but the entire country. Searching through hundreds of comments on the newspaper’s webpage and other sites, literally no comments in support of the article could be found.
Some supporters of the Journal News editors eventually did materialize, saying they appreciate that the map shows them which neighbors have a gun, so they can prevent their kids from playing at those residences.
Overall, however, it would seem the Journal News editors are playing to an audience that simply does not exist. Even most supporters of strict gun control were offended by a list of their neighbors being published on the Internet, as if they were criminals.
One reader of the Rockland County Times said, “They treat gun owners worse than they treat sex offenders.”
Many readers called for a boycott of the White Plains-based newspaper and some even cancelled their subscriptions and signed up with the Rockland County Times instead.
Stony Point native Steve McErleane said, “Just when I thought that paper couldn’t get any worse.”
Tina Frawley of Wesley Hills called the Journal News map, “A gross invasion of privacy.”
Dave Lundwall echoed a common theme, saying, “Now the criminals know who to stay away from and maybe who to rob.”
Some commented on the Rockland County Times message board that many retired law enforcement are on the list, and having their addresses made public opens them up to harassment by perps they had locked away in the past.
It’s not the first time the Journal News had published names of gun permit holders. They also did so in 2006. A handful of other papers around the country have done this in recent years, as well. News network CNN interviewed The Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, about the story.
“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,” Al Tompkins, a Poynter senior faculty member, said in a statement. “Unwarranted publishing of the names of permitted owners just encourages gun owners to skip the permitting.”
A statement was made on the Journal News’ Facebook page from Publisher Janet Hasson defending the action.
Hasson said, “Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.” ”
The highest per capita number of gun owners in Rockland County reside in Stony Point. Supervisor Geoff Finn said, “We have a lot of hunters in Stony Point. I do not support the Journal News publication of permit holders’ names and consider it a violation of privacy.”
Legislator and County Executive Candidate Ed Day had this to say, “This action is mind boggling and indefensible. As a law enforcement professional who has seen the human pain and suffering caused by gun violence up close and personal, I join every clear thinking individual who shares the same concerns we all have. However, focusing on and publishing the names and addresses of citizens who are law abiding, have no criminal record, withstood an investigation, and had a judge authorize their authority to possess a handgun defies logic on many levels. All that has been accomplished is that there is now a ready ‘burglar’s menu’ available for criminals to more easily add to the number of illegal guns on the street, as many holders of Rockland full carry gun permits are not allowed to bring that weapon with them to New York City, thus leaving it at the potentially unattended location, or worse still a place where there may be a family with children, as identified by the Journal News. Of course, that burglar is also now likely armed ‘just in case.'”
The map was led into on the front page of Sunday’s Journal News under the provocative headline “What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood.”
The Rockland County Times shares in the community’s frustration with the tactics of the Journal News, particularly the seeming attempt to draw a moral link between law abiding gun owners and the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The only remedy for this is for the editorial board of the Journal News as well as executives at Gannet to receive a taste of their own medicine.
We are publishing the home addresses of Journal News editors, publishers and the Gannett CEO to make a point; what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We wish no ill will upon them.
(sources for addresses include www.spokeo.com, www.newrochelletalk.com and christopherfountain.wordpress.com)
Reporter who penned the story:
Dwight R. Worley, 23006 139 Ave
Springfield Gardens, NY 11413
Visual editor who made the interactive map:
Robert F. Rodriguez
420 Riverside Dr, Apt 7A
New York, NY 10025-7748