There are two things we learned about guns over the long holiday weekend, besides that people love getting guns for Christmas and that the guy who shot up firefighters with an AR-15 is a real sicko. The first is that it isn't even the slightest bit illegal to post the names and addresses of people who hold gun permits. The second? That gun owners really don't want any of that information about their gun permits going public.
The Journal News, the main newspaper serving New York's Rockland and Westchester counties, used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the name and address of every person with a pistol permit in the area. The paper plotted everything on Google Maps and posted the results on its website December 22:
Now obviously the timeliness factor here is the Newtown shootings and the subsequent national conversation on gun rights and gun control, but gun owners aren't exactly sex offenders, either. And so the reaction over Christmas was swift and national, as the local story was swept up by the already powerful national voice of gun owners on social media. Here were their main complaints about getting outed:
Some wanted immediate retribution, calling for the names and addresses of the editorial staff. This was the most popular comment on the original Journal News story:
Yes, that's someone there saying you should wait for liberals to show up to your house and it will be "like shooting fish in a barrel."
Another sentiment drew the parallel between gun owners and sex offenders — and that even though the names in each of those groups are public information just a few phone calls away, gun owners are now being held to a level of privacy previously held for criminals:
Yes, those are 254 "likes" near the word "lynchings."
People who didn't like the list were also worried that robbers might come to their houses:
There's more in the comments section here, and it's very difficult, at least from the one-sided debate therein, to find anyone who actually appreciated the information. Even The Journal News itself reported on how hated the story was, which also reveals its popularity — according to their own report, the map was viewed over 20,000 times. But obviously what people really care about is the why they did it. Not that this will ameliorate the angry masses, but here's the statement from Cyndee Royle, editor of the paper.
We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings ... People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods ... Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.
UPDATE, Thursday: It's payback time, apparently.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.