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Culture & Politics

The War on Us Gets Personal in New York

by Robert W. Hunnicutt   |  December 27th, 2012 13

The press has been waging war on us collectively for 50 years, and we’re used to that. A lot of gun owners just don’t take it personally anymore.

If you’re one of that group, know that the war just got very personal.

The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., filed a Freedom of Information request with the Westchester and Rockland county governments for a list providing names and addresses of all pistol permit holders.

It then converted that information into an interactive map that indicates each permittee’s home with a red dot. Clicking the dot opens the permit-holders name and street address. It published the information on its website the day before Christmas.

With a perfectly straight face, the newspaper asserted it had done nothing but provide public information that any citizen could access, and that gun owners had no cause of complaint. That’s believable, I guess, if you assume burglars are prone to trot down to the courthouse and file FOIA paperwork.

There can be no doubt what this little exercise was about: an attempt to “out” gun owners in a hotbed of very, very rich Democrats.  It is not an accident that former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton selected Chappaqua in Westchester Co. as a post-White House address.

The Journal News greatly regretted that only pistols were covered, since long guns are not required to be registered. It also plans to expand its scarlet-letter map to neighboring Putnam Co.

This sort of exercise is certainly not unprecedented. An Illinois paper wanted to release the names of every Firearms Owner Identification Card holder in the state, and was stopped only by quick legislative action.

When Virginia instituted concealed carry, the Fairfax County paper printed the names of every permit-holder in the county, including several NRA executives.

Gun owners fought back hard against the Journal News, posting online the addresses of sundry reporters and management types at the paper and its corporate parent, Gannett. Those individuals richly deserved all the abuse to which they undoubtedly were put.

The next step is obviously heavy pressure on the paper’s advertiser base, a pressure it hardly can afford, given current newspaper economics.

Regardless of what you think about guns, using a newspaper to carry out a personal attack on private citizens is intolerable. Providing a menu for every burglar in three states is equally intolerable. No advertiser should want to support a news organization that engages in this sort of tactics against any group of private citizens.

If you’re one of those gun owners who thinks that maybe a registration system wouldn’t be so bad, this incident should help you think again. Getting a pistol permit in Westchester County is a maddeningly long and arduous process requiring personal references and endless paperwork. It’s probably easier to own a machine gun in most states than a pistol in its tony towns.

The reward those permit-holders got for making all that effort was an electronic bullseye on their backs.

The Journal News and its ilk have declared total war on every individual gun owner. Don’t think papers all over the country aren’t thinking of adopting its tactics. We have to wage total war back. We have to do it legally and ethically. But inside those bounds, we must use every tactic at our disposal.

If we don’t fight back, hard and effectively, every one of us will be no more than a red dot on some map.

  • AshleyDale210

    Such an invasion on privacy. Both gun owners and non gun owners should be equally outraged. However, I'd rather be one with a red dot than without.

  • Concerned Citizen

    As law-abiding citizens we are expected to navigate the labyrinth of conflicting state laws regarding firearms and we do successfully everyday. Although many of these laws don’t seem to make sense to firearm owners we still respect them and abide by them everyday.

    Firearms are used more often by law-abiding citizens for self-defense than by deranged criminals to commit horrible acts of mass violence. For several examples for the recent use of firearms for defensive purposes not typically reported by the national media please visit: http://www.equalforce.net and forward this address to others to whom this information may be useful. @forceequalizer

  • Observer

    While the author suggests the "name and shame" tactics make us targets for criminals, the opposite may be true. We may be safer if criminals can see who has a gun and who does not. If I were a criminal, breaking into and entering a house, I would prefer one which did not have guns in it, only victims.

    It probably depends on what the criminal's purpose is in entering a home.

  • Guest

    Long ago growing up on Long Island, NY, I remember a story in the newspaper back in the 70's. A homeowner had killed a man who had broken into the home. I don't recall if the burglar was armed. Suffice it to say, this was in the middle of the night, and the homeowner did not take a chance. The local prosecutor filed charges to show how tough he was against guns, making a big stink that the homeowner did not retreat far enough nor ascertain fully enough whether the burglar was actually armed (sound familiar?). The jury chose to not convict, and the people exercised their better judgment at election time and fired the prosecutor. Hopefully enough people in Westchester etc. will exercise better judgment on the advertisers and bankrupt this newspaper.

  • Starky

    Let us look at this from another point of view. The criminals now also know the homes of those who may not be armed at least with hand guns. If I was choosing a home to hit the last ones would be those with weapons. It appears to me that the Journal News of White Plains NY has provided a great help to the criminal element.

  • Randy

    If we could just get the same info on all the mental cases and criminals printed so easily them we would be making some progress. This is very much a misuse and abuse of media power. The freedom of the press is protected by the second ammendment, as is all of the constitution. The law abiding gun owners are not the problem in this country anymore than law abiding drivers are the cause of vehicle deaths. It's hard to imagine why people who concider themselves intelligent fail to see that a gun, by itself is just an object.

  • Joe Public

    The editor of that newspaper has publicly announced that she is trying to get a list of guns at each address… imagine that. Now if a criminal needs a gun, they have a list of who has what to steal! Face it, the gun owners are not home 24/7… 2 months from now troll around and find a house with some extra newspapers in the driveway and check the map on your smart phone.
    Support this guy who is publishing "publicly available" dirt on the editor and her staff…. http://christopherfountain.wordpress.com/2012/12/

  • OldtimePacker

    Don't know about recently, but in the past, as part of nyc pistol applications, you had to state on where/how pistol would be safeguarded when not in use. Most applicants I was aware of would list that they would keep the pistol in a locked box in a bedroom closet or other location. So most, if not nearly every license holder in nyc has in their file exactly how and where their firearm(s) are in their homes. I worded the answer to that question a bit differently so that the location in the home was unknown, and it didn't get kicked back to me or denied. They of course played the usual games before I finally got my permit but I knew the law and was successful in person against their tactics to draw out releasing the permit with their various excuses they tried over the phone which caused me to show up in person and catch them in their lies which resulted in them handing over the permit months after I initially applied instead of them stalling me for a few more months. I was also very aware of the statement on the application or instructions that all applicant information provided WAS PUBLIC RECORD. This eventually came back to permit holders sometime later when New York Newsday, in a front page article, published the names, addresses and pistol brands/calibers/numbers owned (iirc) for a large number of permit holders in the article as it continued on the inside pages. Mostly the article named famous/connected people that had permits (along with type ((carry?))) but it also included regular/unknown permit holders as well. Being pre-internet as we know it today, it wasn't a comprehensive list of the 30,000+ permit holders of the time, but it did name private individuals as well as famous ones like the Donald, Howard Stern and others. So what the regional NY paper just published wasn't a precedent for NY. NY Newsday did it previously. And this (NY Newsday) incident may be why the legislature changed the law to only provide name/address instead of providing firearm details as was provided to NY Newsday back in the day. And at that time, it's probable that NY Newsday didn't even need a FOIL filing to get the info on NYC permit holders, it stated right on the application or instructions that under NYS law the information provided on the application was public record. If correct, (as I'm sure it was) then the reporters didn't even have to file a FOIL request to get the info.

    What short memories even firearm publications have over news making issues such as this.

  • OldtimePacker

    Error correction: line 9, _SIX_ months after I initially applied (back then, maybe still now, NYS had a law that permit applications had to be granted or denied within 6 months due to NYC and some other counties/issuing officers stalling applications much longer than 6 months as a regular tactic to stall issuing permits.

  • Guest

    The homes that were not published should worry … it means the criminals will target what they perceive to be weak, unprotected homes … rather than face someone with a loaded pistol waiting for them to break down the door! The news article naming all guarded homes is almost like taking out an insurance policy, or a sign in the front yard that says, "Beware, I may bite back."

  • bob

    I am at a complete loss for words. Why would you make such information public. Exclude all opinions associated this needs news paper article needs to be removed. In one light bad guys see that these people own a gun and know not to rob them while they are home, but at the same time makes them a desirable target when the home owner is not present. It creates a bad situation all together.

  • Mr. B

    After hearing about the irresponsible use of personal information by that publication. I wonderd if the publisher could be seud. after all the goal is to keep gunns out of the hands of would be criminals. And since the publication gave , to the genral public, a detailed map as to the posable whereabouts of firearms. Could it be argued that thay are now responsible the security of those wepons. Should thay have to provide proper gun safes and home security for thoes mentioned. After all it is unreasonable to expect all of these people to take all of thier firearms with them when thay leave thier home. Also it could be argued that this careless use of information could lead to furthe criminal gun use.

  • Heretic

    The paper has received so many negative responses to the article that they now have armed guards at their offices.

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