Newspaper can’t have more gun permit data, county says, after publishing names, addresses outraged community

The Journal News | Rockland County Times | Politico | Poynter
Community anger over its decision to publish the names and addresses of gun owners in two New York counties did not deter The Journal News from plans to publish the same information for a third county. But that third county now says it will not provide the Gannett paper with the data, which has been considered public information.

Immediately after The Journal News published maps identifying gun permit holders in Westchester County, where it is based, and nearby Rockland County, New York State Sen. Greg Ball said he would introduce legislation to limit public access to that information, which the newspaper obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

“The asinine editors at the Journal News have gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law abiding firearm owners throughout the region,” Ball said in a statement, “and I thank God that Putnam County has a clerk with the guts to stand up and draw the line here.”

Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said, “Since The Journal News has published this map, Putnam has received hundreds of calls from Putnam residents urging us not to release these records … There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and The Journal News is clearly wrong. I could not live with myself if one Putnam pistol permit holder was put in harm’s way, for the sole purpose of selling newspapers.”

Outraged readers and conservative commentators published the names and addresses of journalists at The Journal News in retaliation. After receiving multiple threats, the paper has even hired armed security guards to staff their headquarters through today at least, reports The Rockland County Times.

The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association has asked advertisers to boycott the paper, according to Politico.

This is not the first time The Journal News has published gun permit information, and it is not the only news organization to have done so.

But the paper did provide the most detailed information with little context, and that caused Poynter’s Al Tompkins to question the journalistic purpose of the project.

“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,” said Tompkins.

“The problem is not that The Journal News was too aggressive. The problem is that the paper was not aggressive enough in its reporting to justify invading the privacy of people who legally own handguns in two counties it serves.”

Journal News Publisher Janet Hasson says the paper will fight Putnam County for the gun permit information.

Related: First Amendment Center CEO Ken Paulson, who was editor of The Journal News in the 1990s, says “Although we can debate the merits of the journalism, there is no question about the paper’s First Amendment protection. It had every right to publish this public information.” || Maryland delegate proposes legislation to “prohibit newspapers and other publications from printing personal or private information about firearm owners.” (Baltimore City Paper)

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  • Guest

    How about the retired police officers that now have their names and addresses out there. They are required to have permits just like everyone else. Now criminals that they have arrested have their home info. Nothing like serving a community for years just to retire and have your info published so all the people you put in jail over the years know where you live.

  • Guest

    It is now being reported that she is a gun owner herself. Can someone confirm that? I’ve been trying to find it. If it’s public record I’m not sure where to look.

  • Rangeley

    Consider the impact not only one gun permit holders, but on those who do not have gun permits. By publishing in such a public way, those who have them, it reveals who does not have one as well and leaves them in greater danger.

  • Rangeley

    By publishing a list of permit holders in this way, marking these houses, they are also by default outing houses without a permit holder. It could call the bluff of someone fearing domestic abuse, could serve as an invite to criminals… its such a horribly ill-thought out idea.

  • Robert Knilands

    Gun violence is horrible. Guy gets into an argument with someone and next thing you know shots are fired. The next day the person firing the gun cools down but it is too late. The person firing the gun has ruined somebodies (sic) life because of an argument.

  • Robert Knilands

    You can Google “domestic violence shootings” or “domestic disputes shootings” and see the results.

    I almost feel silly pointing this out to you, as I’m sure you would have educated yourself on this point and not just run blindly with an NRA drone-like conclusion.

  • Nick Gerol

    What do you mean a lot? Are you in law enforcement? Few involve firearms.Most involve physical violence or knives,etc…

  • Nick Gerol

    Domestic “must arrest” is horrible. Guy gets into an argument with his partner and next thing you know he goes to jail. The next day the wife or partner cools down but it is too late. They have ruined somebodies life because of an argument.

  • Nick Gerol

    Because itis THEIR choice to weather or not they want anybody else to know. You might tell a friend about painful rectal itch, if you want everybody to share this knowledge take out an add. BUT IT IS YOUR CHOICE, NOT THE PAPERS!

  • Nick Gerol

    Would you want everybody to that you are a diamond dealer who works out of their house? How about owning a dinner, many owners handle large amounts of cash? Let’s just suppose you have several safes in your house filled with firearms you now have to fear somebody might hurt your children to get them. Or even worst, these stolen guns are now in the hands of criminals and they shoot your child! I bet you did not even think about that, did you, jerk! It is NOBODY’S Fuc#ing business what you own.

  • HeyzeeThrillzSEEKER

    Gun owner and proud of it

  • Fraqnkenputer

    If you really don’t understand. Kindly post your name and address here with the statement “I own an HDTV and a Blue Ray”. Do it, I dare you. If you won’t, then you know what is wrong with this don’t you?

  • David Kane

    There were also police officers on that list. Publishing their addresses endangers the lives of not only the officers but their loved ones as well.

  • John

    Would a master list of non Gun holders up set the general public?
    As in these are the address of people who we Know have no gun permit.
    What needs to happen is a petition by people in NY state asking Gannette to fiire Boss and some staff for stupidity.

    Some one please publish address and telephone changes to the Papers employees..
    I guess that public info is ok? Hired armed Guards no way laughing my arse off..

  • harryeagar

    Answer the question,please?

    You seem disposed to draw many conclusions. I conclude no one who has alcohol in his house should be allowed to have a gun.

    I call gun nuts gun nuts for a reason. I don’t care whether they like it.

  • Robert Knilands

    Sorry, but as with many people, your definition of “journalism” is centered upon only what you agree with.

    Like it or not, this information has been public record. I don’t agree with how this was handled, but if it’s a choice between that maneuver and the constant stonewalling and obtuseness of NRA drones, I would choose that maneuver.

  • Bds Hà Thành

    best not to use a gun license,

  • Brazen Siren

    Some of the people who’s names and addresses were printed were domestic abuse victims who were under protective order. That’s how.

  • poppy coq

    So, what?

    We’re talking about journalism here.

    The paper should look back on this experience and, next time, aim higher, if you’ll pardon the expression.

  • poppy coq

    First, stop calling people “gun nuts.” It might accurately express your feelings towards them, but it doesn’t help advance the debate. If you aren’t interested in advancing the debate, please stop posting here and wasting people’s time.

    Second, stop worrying about nonexistent “credits” and start worrying about the effectiveness of your police department. If the Biddeford police are your local police, then your time would be better spent asking why they don’t take seriously threats to shoot someone, especially in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

    You’re kind of annoying. You think you’re “winning” arguments, but you’re just annoying.

    Again, if you don’t have anything besides an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” type of reply, please remain silent.

  • Robert Knilands

    “first thought blurted out in a planning meeting and no one stopped to ask about relevance.”

    That description would fit almost every pro-gun argument presented.

  • Robert Knilands

    A lot of those domestic disputes result in gunfire. Are you saying police should check for guns and permits in all of those situations, even the ones without gunfire?

  • poppy coq

    Good chatting with you.

    Yes, “a more extensive analysis and an explanation of why it’s relevant” would be progress.

    I think what they came out with is more like a first thought blurted out in a planning meeting and no one stopped to ask about relevance.

  • harryeagar

    So, poppy, answer the question. Do we get to deduct these corpses from the credits claimed by the gun nuts or not?

  • poppy coq

    Try to focus, ok? Don’t make silly statements.

    The threat to shoot the tenants was a crime in and of itself. It’s called “making a terroristic threat.” They should have arrested him and checked for weapons and a permit.

    Years ago, police would walk away from domestic violence situations because the husband would say it was a “misunderstanding” and the battered wife was too scared to speak up. Now, thankfully, we have “must arrest” laws in place.

    One of the outcomes of the Newtown murders should be that every police department should review its procedures for handling situation like this one in Maine. Unlike Newtown, there was plenty of indication that this was a potentially deadly situation.

  • Lucilius

    I agree it could have been accompanied by a more extensive analysis and an explanation of why it’s relevant, but I think the very reaction indicates that it’s newsworthy in general.
    I referred to the gun owners who wish to remain anonymous, regardless of public-record laws. Their objections remind me of a dimwitted cousin of mine, who told me several years ago that he was going to get rich by suing the local paper. (Actually, he expected one of his buddies would get rich through such a suit, but my cousin rather endearingly believed his buddy would share.) Said buddy had been arrested, and the paper printed his name from the police report “without asking his permission.” I broke the news to him that one did not need special permission to report items from the public record, whether police reports, tax information or anything else.

  • Robert Knilands

    Of course, if the officer had checked for a gun, then the gun people would have taken offense.

  • poppy coq

    I’ll grant you that the paper did nothing illegal, but I hold firm to my belief that the map was lazy journalism. There’s no news in that map…they were piggybacking on the Newtown shooting in a rush to “do something” related to guns.

    And no one was concealing anything. The Journal News didn’t publish the Pentagon Papers, they cobbled together a google map.

  • poppy coq

    Yeah, here’s the story.

    Some excerpts:

    “Biddeford Police had initially been dispatched to the Pak residence around 6 p.m. Saturday after Thompson called to complain that his landlord was yelling at him and threatening him. Thompson allegedly told Officer Ed Dexter that Pak “got in his face,” according to the affidavit, told Thompson to hit him and then allegedly claimed he was going to shoot them.

    “Thompson told Officer Dexter he was not fearful and did not believe Pak would do anything that he claimed, Pike wrote in the affidavit that supported Pak’s arrest warrant.

    “The confrontation was videotaped by Johnson with her cell phone. Police left after spending about 40 minutes with the parties.”

    It sounds like the police didn’t bother to check if he had a gun to make good on his (videotaped!) threat. But just threatening to shoot or kill someone is enough to get you arrested.

    “Maine Revised Statutes
    §209. Criminal threatening

    1. A person is guilty of criminal threatening if he intentionally or knowingly places another person in fear of imminent bodily injury.

    2. Criminal threatening is a Class D crime.”

    Also, the shooter blew a .15 when he was arrested, so the cops probably could have arrested him for being drunk in public.

    The cops don’t appear to have followed the law (or common sense) and three minutes later were called back to the house because the landlord started shooting.

    “Three minutes later, Susan Johnson called 911 to say she’d been shot and that there were two other victims.”

  • Lucilius

    “Private, law-abiding citizens” are already part of the debate on gun violence. Many, probably most, of the guns used in crimes were legally bought. Whether a previously law-abiding citizen commits the crime or the gun is stolen by someone else – burglar, relative or roommate – gun violence requires the presence of a gun.
    Privacy has limits for anyone living in civilized society. Should media similarly chart bankruptcies, divorces and DUIs? Sure. If their location has any relevance to their occurrence, why not?
    As some others here have noted, the newspaper did nothing illicit in obtaining this information; it’s a matter of public record. If you want to talk about changing public-record laws, that can be discussed; but you can’t blame someone for following the law as it stands. Public records are public records are public records, no matter who wishes to conceal themselves.

  • poppy coq

    ”Would a master list of hunting permits, motorcycle riders license holders, boat owners, recreational crabbing permits stir up the same concerns?”

    No. But they would be equally lacking in news-worthiness.

    Whether the map places people at risk is debatable and separate from the right to privacy, but their is some harm being done to people. This isn’t happening in a vacuum…it’s a response to a horrible mass murder. One of the people on the fringes of the map, represented by one of those lonely dots, could reasonably ask (through his attorney) “What did I do to be dragged into this debate?”

  • poppy coq

    I think the point here is that the paper was trying to make some sort of statement with their blood red map of gun permit holders and they dragged private, law-abiding citizens into this debate on gun violence.

    Anyway, you can’t claim to know what each and every one of the 44,000 people thinks and feels about their guns, much less their privacy. People have a right to be left alone. Should they publish the same type of map on bankruptcies? Divorces? DUI’s?

  • Matthew Daneman

    Amen. The issue of what the Journal News is doing with the information is beside the point. The fact is, a government agency is taking upon itself to evaluate the merits of why someone should have this public information. People applauding Putnam County now I hope show the same attitude when the county decides that it won’t cough up other documents in the future, like what public employees make.

  • harryeagar

    My daily newspaper opened 2013 with a story from Biddeford, Maine, about an armed homeowner using his handgun to shoot 3 people who lived in an apartment in his house in a dispute over late rent payments. Can we deduct those (2 deaths) from the supposed tally of advantages of keeping firearms in a residence?

  • Edward Ericson Jr

    How, exactly, has printing a list and map of gun permit holders endangered lives?

  • Christopher Yasiejko

    Dennis Sant, the Putnam County clerk cited above, made this a First Amendment issue when he said, “There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and The Journal News is clearly wrong.”
    It is good to debate the merits of the editors’ decision to publish the information, but a government employee cannot at will decide the laws with which he or she will comply. If Sant feels so strongly against releasing public information that he cannot fulfil the duties for which citizens pay him, surely he has the strength to leave that job. If he does not, he has no legal choice but to share the public information.

  • sargeh

    The utter arrogance and stupidity of Janet Hasson and her coterie of juvenile staff members at the Journal News is beyond amazing. And we in the media continue to wonder why readers are fleeing us.

  • Lucilius

    Gun advocates claim having guns protects them from crime, and many publicize the fact that they have guns as a deterrent. Yet when somebody else points out that they have guns, suddenly they claim that endangers them. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Richard Michem

    I would be more worries about the gun holders, having their name publish, having harm come to then. What funny about this is that the reason, some people have guns it their belief to
    protected, the constitution. Does not the big C, say something about rights of a free press?

  • Edward Ericson Jr

    What is the presumed harm in publishing the names and addresses of gun permit holders? Clearly “everyone” believes this is a matter of privacy for the permit holder and concomitant danger to them when the info is revealed. How, exactly?

    Would a master list of hunting permits, motorcycle riders license holders, boat owners, recreational crabbing permits stir up the same concerns?

  • Karl Idsvoog

    Public records are public records. It’s not up to the clerk to decide what can be released; that’s dictated by the state’s public records law.

  • Floyd Wilson

    If they hate gun owners so much why are they hiring armed gun owners to protect them. Every armed citizen should refuse to provide these scumbags protection after they endangered so many lives.