A letter from Journal News publisher Janet Hasson
Jan. 18, 2013 5:20 PM,
Journal News publisher Janet Hasson
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, the Journal News thought the community should know where gun permit holders in their community were, in part to give parents an opportunity make careful decisions about their children’s safety.
The Journal News mapped the public database of permit holders, placing a dot on the address of every permit holder in Westchester and Rockland counties and providing the name and street address of each holder. The dots conveyed a powerful message: gun permit holders are everywhere in our counties.
But public reaction to the posting of names and street addresses was swift and divided. Many in the community expressed their gratitude for The Journal News’ decision to make the information available, but permit holders were outraged at what they considered to be an invasion of privacy. Gun owners from across the country vocally conveyed their anger and accused The Journal News of having exposed permit holders and non-permit holders alike to the risk of burglaries and other crimes. Hundreds of threats were made to Journal News staffers.
So intense was the opposition to our publication of the names and addresses that legislation passed earlier this week in Albany included a provision allowing permit holders to request confidentiality and imposing a 120-day moratorium on the release of permit holder data.
Today The Journal News has removed the permit data from lohud.com. Our decision to do so is not a concession to critics that no value was served by the posting of the map in the first place. On the contrary, we’ve heard from too many grateful community members to consider our decision to post information contained in the public record to have been a mistake. Nor is our decision made because we were intimidated by those who threatened the safety of our staffers. We know our business is a controversial one, and we do not cower.
But the database has been public for 27 days and we believe those who wanted to view it have done so already. As well, with the passage of time, the data will become outdated and inaccurate.
Equally important, the legislature has weighed in on the issue and representatives of residents from across the state have said that some New Yorkers who hold gun permits should have the right to keep that information private. As a news organization, we are constantly defending the public’s right to know. Consequently we do not endorse the way the legislature has chosen to limit public access to gun permit data. The statute is very broad and allows anyone who meets certain criteria within qualifying categories to keep their permit information private. When the moratorium concludes, far fewer permit holders will be identifiable, and those who want to know which houses on their block may have guns will not be able to get that information. But we are not deaf to voices who have said that new rules should be set for gun permit data.
Make no mistake, The Journal News will continue to report aggressively on gun ownership. We will continue to pursue our request for data from Putnam County, and will closely analyze the data for Westchester and Rockland counties when it once again becomes publicly available. And we will keep a snapshot of our map–with all its red dots– on our website to remind the community that guns are a fact of life we should never forget.
President and Publisher
Journal News Media Group