Newspaper publishes names, addresses of gun owners

The Journal News honored victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting on its front page Christmas Day with memorial candles that named the 26 students and staff killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. The paper chose a less lyrical approach last weekend, when — in response to the shooting – it published maps with the names and home addresses of people who had been issued pistol permits in Westchester County, where the Gannett paper is based, and nearby Rockland County.

Newtown, Conn., is about 43 miles northeast of Westchester County, N.Y., where The Journal News is based.

Readers were outraged, as were conservative commentators. Soon after the paper published the data, acquired through Freedom of Information requests, bloggers published what they believe to be the home addresses of Gannett CEO Gracia Martore, the paper’s publisher, its editor, and the story’s reporter.

That response seems entirely appropriate to Poynter senior faculty Al Tompkins, who said by email: “I hope any journalist who does this is willing to be accessible and responsive. If it is unfettered openness you want, you jolly well better set the example.”

This is not the first time The Journal News has published gun permit information; it says “a similar article in 2006 received similar responses.” And The Journal News is not the only news organization to publish gun permit information.

The paper is awaiting gun permit data from Putnam County.

WRAL, where I worked 10 years ago, published a permit database earlier this year with street-level data but no names. The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., published a similar database this time last year. In protest, groups responded by posting editors’ home addresses, Tompkins says. The Roanoke Times was an early publisher of this information in 2007, but redacted it, as did Philadelphia magazine, reports The Verge. Former Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record editor John Robinson notes that his paper published gun permits in the 1990s, before he was editor.

ABC News published a statement from The Journal News explaining its decision:

The Journal News said its readers “are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods,” because of the conversation about gun control on its website after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., last week.

In a story on the paper’s website, Publisher Janet Hasson said, “New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information.”

That does not justify publication, says Tompkins, especially given the potential for harm:

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.

Unwarranted publishing of the names of permitted owners just encourages gun owners to skip the permitting.

Related: Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald apologizes for an editorial about gun control that said Sen. Kelly Ayotte “clearly cares more about being a rising star in the Republican Party than about seeing a 6-year-old shot in the face.”

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  • John

    “It is necessary to repeat that it is the perpetrator and no one else who is to blame for the loss of 77 precious human lives, for physical and mental harm and for great material devastation”. Norweigan mass murder,,,, 77 people dead but it only happens in America according to our liberals” This nut was like the one in Newton he had no feelings an animal.
    Answer public Executions would deter this , works in Moslem countries and some others..
    But we the public should not condone killings but support arse holes like this for the rest of their life.

  • John

    Really,, now how would you know that info? But then again all of your post tend to be Bovine Scat anyway.. Un employed with nothing to do but post all day and night, get a life wimp….I hope no one breaks your door down some night, but then againand then again maybe that is what is needed to wake you up. Post your address I am sure some one wil drop by later some night.. If you post it I will re post for your pleasure..and share with the world..It could be a real eye opening experince

  • MrPicky

    “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”― Robert A. Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon

  • John

    How about women and children hiding from spouse abuse.. Different prople have different reasons for owning a weapon. Witness protection program, retired police officers, District attorneys,the list goes on and on.

  • Tim Fromlosangeles

    Really? Poynter Institute senior faculty member calls newspaper’s move “journalist arrogance” Really? No where in the A.P. Style handbook does it say Journal News violated any ethical or legal rules. As a matter of fact, it should be encouraged. Why? because this is the basis for the First Amendment. But why are people going gung ho after J.N. when it was Rockland County who released the name. If you have an issue, complain about the government and don’t censor fellow journalists…or are you a reputable news organization?

  • Hank

    WOW, you said a mouthful!

    I can’t comment on what happened, I really have no clue about the event, I will however make a blanket statement, If Dick Armey broke the law, he needs to be prosecuted for breaking the law, unfortunately,the folks we’ve sent to DC seem to live by different rules than we the people. I’ve read a few net articles about this event, and the articles seem to be written from two different points of view, blurring the real truth. If he did wrong, prosecute him and jail him, no problem with that, right, left, red, blue, who cares, it goes back to wrong or right, legal or illegal.

    I’m not really too bright, nor am I an NRA member, so I probably don’t understand how the different dynamics of this posting of the names and addys of permit holders is right or wrong, lawful or unlawful, but of one thing I am sure personally think It stinks! Freedom of the press, yeah baby!!

    I have to believe, since the release of the newspapers staff phone numbers, and addresses, I have to think they will have a few less than pleasant calls, and perhaps visits…….. Stupid, yes,,,,, smart, ??,,,, deserved, ??,,,,, reality, yes.
    just my uneducated perspective.
    thank you for reading this drivel, that really does nothing to move this country in the right direction.

  • dw

    There is no affirmative right to vote in the Constitution. There is only a right not to be denied the vote on certain grounds (race, color, previous condition of servitude, sex, age if over 18).

    See Minor v. Happersett

  • poppy coq

    I didn’t bring it up, harryeagar did. He said concealed carry is the cause for “some crazy person around you at the mall carrying a firearm that might go off at any minute” and I’m saying the two are unrelated. It’s not a question of everyone following a law but whether the specific scenario he referred to might happen.

  • Joshua Nichols

    Off the top of my head, how about voting?

  • Robert Knilands

    This always has been and always will be a flawed argument. The idea that a law cannot be made unless everyone will follow it runs counter to the idea of making laws. If we knew everyone would follow a law, then we wouldn’t need laws.
    Sadly, this premise has been trumpeted and repeated by drones of the NRA, which relies on misinformation.

  • Richard R. Bruce

    Personal legal weapons should not have to be registered. What other right in the Constitution requires registration?

  • poppy coq

    I don’t have any confidence that the county’s records are up to date. If I register a gun at one address and then two years later sell my gun and move to a new address, the records won’t be updated because I have no gun to re-register and no incentive to update my information. And the poor schmuck who moved into my old apartment now finds his address on this list.

    In other words, any given name/address combo on the map could be inaccurate and the newspaper has possibly published false and misleading information. I smell a lawsuit.

  • poppy coq

    [[It is also true that many gun nuts want concealed carrry must issue laws so that you would not know if some crazy person around you at the mall is carrying a firearm that might go off at any minute because of a 'mishap' and kill you.]]

    Crazy people don’t go to the trouble of registering their guns and the lack of a concealed carry law or permit is not going to deter them.

  • poppy coq

    Ditto the comment that taxpayers are the bosses of public employees. Further, daylight is truly the best disinfectant when it comes to patronage hires, no-show jobs and the like. The former Cook County board president (Chicago is in Cook County) hired a former busboy as an “administrative assistant” at $48K a year. The busboy’s salary quickly rose to more than $60K when he was made a human resources assistant in the Cook County Highway Department. All this despite a “lengthy criminal history.” The board president hired his own cousin as Chief Financial Officer for the county (at $179,000 a year). The CFO twice bailed the busboy out of jail and reportedly helped him get paid for days he didn’t work.

    It goes on an on, but the idea is that taxpayers, other public employees and the press) are the best guard against abuse of public dollars.

    BTW, the busboy was eventually fired and the cousin was forced to resign…although she landed back on the county payroll in a different job and at a mere $79K per year.

  • harryeagar

    So, Hank, how do you feel about Dick Armey using a pistol to terrorize and loot a rightwing pressure group, FreedomWorks? Just exercising his personal rights and responsibilities under the Second Amendment?

    Evidently, FreedomWorks, although it has offices in Washington, a city full of scary black dudes, did not feel the need to arm its girl secretaries. Ha! Little did they know that a former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives was stalking them.

    It just goes to show that you can never be too careful.

    Especially around rightwingers with guns. Just being perfectly logical and operating on the basis of actual events and not the feverish dreams of timid, frightened, sexually anxious targets (ahem) of gun manufacturers’ publicity campaigns.

  • harryeagar

    Actually, it’s about men worried their peckers are too short. That, at least, is what the Bushmaster company concluded after spending a lot of money on market research, and then a lot more on their Man Card campaign.

    They were right. It was the most effective firearms promotion in history: Buy our thousand-dollar, useless rifle and your pecker will magically grow longer!!

  • jskdn

    Or where a bad guy could go to steal a gun, while likely carrying one themselves on chance that a home they thought unoccupied wasn’t. If you were one of the gun owners identified by the newspaper and might encounter someone you think is an intruder, how might that affect your decision on whether to shoot or not?

  • Hank

    Terrie, I do remember, I think the conclusion was: This animal’s mother was sleeping, and he decided to end her life, do you really think if he didn’t have a gun, she would still be walking this earth. I think the answer is no, he would have found another way to the same end result. To your second point, how does a parent “feel” about gun rights, maybe they were bad parents, maybe their child was a legit animal like this kid in New Town, it’s not about how you “feel”, it’s about right and wrong! somebody uses a gun irresponsibly, we have laws to take care of that, if they are prosecuted, correct?

    How Adam’s mother stored those guns was her decision, irresponsible, but still her decision, just as it is your decision, as to where you want to store your butcher knives. She chose to leave them where they could be handled by this monster, again, horribly wrong decision, especially with that child killer in the house, nonetheless, it was still her decision….her personal responsibility…….

    Don’t take this personally, but, who is to say was is considered “stored properly” how is that enforced without stomping all over someone’s rights? Better yet, who would want the job of “gun storage enforcement officer” ….not I.
    Think this through in an unbiased, non knee jerk reaction, logical process, not emotionally, and you may come to a different conclusion.

  • Jimmy D’Alessio

    Some Guy With Nothing To do , Without a Job , like Most people , Should Post The Names , Addresses , Family Names Telephone #’s of All Connected With that paper , and Send it to “RT” TV .

  • Terrie Lynn Bittner

    Adam’s mother had a gun–lots of them. It’s how her son killed her, remember? Guns, if stored properly, are not accessible in an emergency. Instead, they are largely used to harm you or so your child can harm others. I wonder how a parent whose child is in jail because he used his parents’ gun in anger one day feels about gun rights.

  • Terrie Lynn Bittner

    It harms those not listed because it tells criminals who does not have a gun. It makes gun owners a target of those who oppose guns.

  • Terrie Lynn Bittner

    It endangers both gun owners and non-gun-owners, since it also reveals who does not own a gun and could put those people in danger.

  • Bruce Siceloff

    Sorry to see Poynter come down against the public’s right to know and interest in knowing, and to see Tompkins endorse without a journalist’s skepticism these unsubstantiated, scattershot warnings about dire consequences. In communities where ownership of certain guns is deemed an important enough matter to require a government permit (in my community, this applies to concealed-carry rights only), then it’s important enough to warrant convenient public access to information about who has received these permits.

  • Jane Fonda

    Read more here ASK22,ℂoℳ

  • Clayton Burns

    I want to know if you are packing heat so that I can shun you.

    If there is anyone who is more disgusting than an illiterate shuffling smoker who invades your space with his criminal habit, it is a goof who trains his kids so that they can kill school children.

    You have no right to pack a gun. It is an atavistic urge. You need to get over it.

    Journalists who publish the data have my full approval.

  • Hank

    you can’t win an argument with an anti gun individual, they look at things differently, we can’t spend time trying to convert these people, gun owners time is much better spent at the range.

    Many of these keyboard cowboys, espousing their drivel about gun ownership, have never had their residence broken into, family violated. It’s not about heroics, grandstanding, it’s about protecting the people you love. I hope not a single one of you have to ever go thru a home invasion, if you do, god bless… choose your course of action, either ask the intruders to wait while you use your i phone to call the police, or protect the ones you live for, they may comply, or they may just grab your wife, and kids,or continue to commit crimes upon your family. It’s not like you see in the movies, it DOES NOT happen that way!! pray you never have to go thru it!!!
    If you do, save what matters the most at that time, the lives of the ones you love.

  • Daniel Chenault

    Now the bad guys know where NOT to go. Good move guys.

  • Hank

    privacy, really? I’m sure these folks have nothing to worry about

  • Jenny Gershwin

    Totally different… taxpayers we are the EMPLOYER and have the right to know how are tax money is being spent. It is only when we find out how outrageous these salaries are can we then take action to claw back tax increases and force them to lower salaries and benefits.

  • harryeagar

    Yes, Nathaniel, and in another forum these same posters would be either a) telling you how safe it would be for you to have them around you; or b) promising to blow off the heads of any criminal who got near them because they are, you know, armed and dangerous.

    The dangerous part is real enough.

    It is also true that many gun nuts want concealed carrry must issue laws so that you would not know if some crazy person around you at the mall is carrying a firearm that might go off at any minute because of a ‘mishap’ and kill you.

    See next post by Lam.

    Your, error, Nathanial was in assuming gun nuts are capable of clear reasoning from A to B. They just need their Man Cards stamped so they will know that they are rough tough, rootin’ tootin’ he-men. Like, say, the Lanzas, mommy and sonny.

    Notice also from this story: It doesn’t take much to set these people off. That’s why letting them keep firearms is a bad idea.

  • canardnoir

    You ask – “What kind of criminal…”?

    Well let’s just take a small percentage of that element which have some sort of mental defect and/or twisted concept of reality but can read, while perhaps sitting around all day playing violent video games, then prowling the streets and dark alleyways at night – perhaps that will be the “kind”?

  • canardnoir

    Peter – you have no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy!

  • canardnoir

    How about the same media focus on “civil unions” or registered sex offenders?

    But in some ways it’s just like disclosure of government subsidy recipients – there are always the exemption from naming that few others are qualified to receive…

  • canardnoir

    Obviously, the overwhelming anti-firearms sentiment of the media prevailed with some other unintended consequences to come to those apparently law-abiding citizens who were intentionally outed.

    While there is likely no “public records” question to be settled by the courts, but the media intent is very clear, because there was no public outcry to KNOW!

    Same mind set that NBC’s David Gregory had when he showed the 30-round magazine Sunday morning from their Washington D.C. studio. While possession of such large-capacity firearms magazines remains illegal within the District and he had no further legal authorization – he and the producers did it because they knew they could – because they’re the media and can afford the high-priced attorneys to wear out anyone’s legal challenge!

    First Amendment – FORWARD!

  • Curtis Lam

    It depends on how one views self defense and guns. For example, as a gun owner I prefer concealed carry to open carry. Concealed carry means that I don’t want to cause panic or make myself a target for crime (I live in a highly urban state) but still want to be able to protect myself as a last resort. To me, open carry is impractical because it can be seen as intimidating, and it draws unwanted attention from both criminals and the law.

    Based on my attitude, I would say that publishing the names and locations of gun owners is a breach of privacy and possibly attracting unwanted attention to them. I think it’s more likely to cause harm than good.

  • Nathaniel Weixel

    But isn’t the whole point of having a gun to protect yourself and your property? And isn’t it to let other people know you have a gun? Isn’t the whole argument “xxx wouldn’t have happened if a good guy had a gun?” What kind of criminal would deliberately target the people with guns? Publishing the info might not have had journalistic merit, but I don’t see the harm.

  • dw

    The George Washington quote is fake. Can’t be bothered to go through the rest of them.

  • CPO_C_Ryback

    Yes, this is l-a-z-y journalism.

    It is like printing stuff from a telephone book. Any fool can do it, and these Gannettoids (working at place that was a scab newspaper during NYC strikes) proves that.

    Any wonder why voting % keep going down? To keep one’s info (and earnings) from thieves, bums, and Gannettoids?

    Oh, BTW: national debt is $16,300,000,000,000.00, 46,000,000 on food stamps, and 27,000,000 unemployed/under-employed (and growing). Duh.

  • SovereignMary

    George Washington
    – “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They
    are the people’s liberty teeth keystone… the rifle and the pistol are
    equally indispensable… more than 99% of them by their silence indicate
    that they are in safe and sane hands. The very atmosphere of firearms
    everywhere restrains evil interference. When firearms go, all goes, we
    need them every hour.” (Address to 1st session of Congress)

    Thomas Jefferson – “The
    strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear
    arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in

    George Mason
    – “Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed
    in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised…to disarm the
    people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but
    that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink
    gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia…” (In
    Virginia’s Ratifying Convention, Elliot p.3:379-380)
    (Signed Declaration of Independence, Continental Congress delegate, 1st Vice President, 2nd President)
    John Adams – (Signed Declaration of Independence, Continental Congress delegate, 1st Vice President, 2nd President) “Arms in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion…in private self-defense…” 1788

    Sam Adams – (Signed
    Declaration of Independence, organized the Sons of Liberty,
    participated in Boston Tea Party, Member of Continental Congress,
    Governor of Massachusetts) “And that the said Constitution be
    never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of
    the press, or the right of conscience; or to prevent the people of the
    United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms;
    …or to prevent the people from petitioning , in a peaceable and
    orderly manner; or to subject the people to unreasonable searches and
    seizures of their persons, papers or possessions.” (Debates of the Massachusetts Convention of 1788, p86-87)

    (Drafted Virginia Constitution, Member of Continental Congress,
    Virginia delegate to Constitutional Convention, named “Father of the
    Constitution”, author of Federalist Papers, author of the Bill of
    Rights, Congressman from Virginia, Secretary of State, 4th President)
    the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the
    people of almost every other nation.. (where) ..the governments are
    afraid to trust the people with arms.” (Federalist Papers #46)

    (Signed Declaration of Independence, introduced resolution in
    Continental Congress to become independent, proposed Bill of Rights from
    beginning, author of Anti-Fed Papers, Congressman and Senator from Virginia)
    “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…and include all men capable of bearing arms.” 1788 (Federal Farmer, p.169)
    preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people
    always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to
    use them…” 1788 (Federal Farmer)
    free government was ever founded, or ever preserved its liberty,
    without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those
    destined for the defense of the state… Such are a well regulated
    militia, composed of the freeholders, citizens and husbandman, who take
    up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as

    TENCH COXE (friend of Madison, member of Continental Congress) “Who
    are the militia? Are they not ourselves. Congress have no power to
    disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of
    the soldier, are the birth-right of an American…(T)he unlimited power
    of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state
    governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands
    of the people.” (Freeman’s Journal, 20 Feb 1778)

    ZACHARIA JOHNSON (delegate to Virginia Ratifying Convention) “The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them.” (Elliot, 3:645-6)

  • Ro Gal

    Well said Ed, I just hope your comments don’t fall on deaf ears.

  • Ro Gal

    Granted, the gun owner information is available to the public under FOIA, but this paper took the spirit of the law and twisted it in order to push their anti-gun agenda (so much for objective reporting). Second, they put these people at risk because a B&E criminal now knows he can get guns and resell them to other criminals who theoretically could use them in a crime to hurt the very people who wrote the story or work at that Newspaper (that would be total irony). The Journal News actions are inappropriate, legal for sure but it does their cause NO GOOD at all.

  • Erik Gable

    I did see that later, which surprised me given the implications of the report. (Can you imagine anyone giving the same treatment to marriage licenses, even though those are also public and frequently published?)

  • Maryn McKenna

    The story is topped by this editor’s note: “Journal News reporter Dwight R. Worley owns a Smith & Wesson 686 .357 Magnum and has had a residence permit in New York City for that weapon since February 2011.”

  • Ed Stych

    Andy, as public data becomes more easily accessible, we need journalists to be responsible in how they use it. Reporting how many people have gun permits and using a map to show clusters is interesting and helpful. Adding names and addresses goes too far. In your Wild West version of how to use public data, are you ready to publish the names and addresses of people in your neighborhood (with maps!) who have been divorced, owe back taxes, have gone bankrupt some time in their lives, and have driving violations?

    Let’s remember that “minimize harm” is one of the practices listed in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. It goes on to say, among other things:

    “Journalists should … Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.”

  • Peter Bridgeman

    So where was the outrage when papers — including many from Gannett — went crazy publishing the names, job titles, and salaries of state workers and teachers? “Publishing state workers’ names makes them targets for theft or public
    ridicule. … Unwarranted publishing of the names of state workers just encourages talented individuals to skip public service.”

    Just to be clear: I don’t like publishing the gun owners’ data, but I also don’t like publishing salary info. “It is journalistic arrogance to abuse public record privilege” regardless of whether one agrees with the ideology behind the data being published.

  • Keith Bloemendaal

    You don’t understand the objection? It may be public record, but it isn’t so easily found and put into an interactive map. What you don’t understand, I guess, is the lives it just endangered. The lives of all those addresses with no gun permits, as well as the ones with permits. This type of journalism only throws gas on an already out of control fire. It encourages criminal activity, and demonizes law abiding citizens.

  • tan thanh
  • Andy Bechtel

    These are public records accessible to anyone. I don’t understand the objection.

  • Erik Gable

    This tells you a lot about the mindset and starting assumptions of the reporters and editors involved in the project: You’re only likely to come up with this idea when you start from the belief that firearm ownership is inherently sinister.