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Gun-Owner Database

Jan. 2, 2013 update: Putnam County officials are refusing to release pistol-permit information.

The Journal News published a database of persons holding handgun permits in Westchester and Rockland counties (New York), using information from public records obtained by Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests. The newspaper’s rationale for making the information available is that its readers “are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods.”

Although the newspaper had released similar information in 2006, recent events in Newtown, Connecticut and the impact of social media made the database a touchstone of debate, pro and con, over the release of such information. Nearly 36,000 people had recommended the story on Facebook as of Dec. 27, 55% of them before Dec. 26, 2012.  The article was linked on traditional (e.g. ABC News, etc.) and “new” media (e.g. Drudge Report, etc.) websites. The story on received over 500 comments, pro and con. A supporter of the database said he would love to know if his neighbors owned guns, and might choose not to live next to such people. Some county officials maintained that the public may not have the right to know some of the specifics of the permits. Some gun owners argued that they were being treated like sex offenders. The database only includes registered pistols (hand guns), not rifles or other long guns.

A blogger, displeased about the gun permit database, published the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the staff of The Journal News. There were only eleven addresses, and some of the people may no longer work at the newspaper, which has downsized its staff over recent years. As an example of one of the differences between “old” and “new” media, the blogger noted “I have to wonder if all these names are current employees but we will treat them as such until we learn otherwise.”

Politico (1/1/13): The Journal News hires armed security guards.

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