Print and online media were predictably flooded with stories on guns and gun control in the week following the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Few stories, however, attracted attention like this one published by The Journal News, a White Plains, New York-based paper, which included an interactive map pinpointing the names and locations of registered handgun permit holders throughout two suburban New York counties. The Journal News did nothing wrong in obtaining the information; handgun permits in New York are public records, and a Freedom of Information Act request was all the paper needed to get them.
Although legal, their action is problematic for other reasons, not the least of which is that the story accompanying the map starts off with the shooting of a local woman by her mentally disturbed 77-year-old neighbor, who “had amassed a cache of weapons — including two unregistered handguns and a large amount of ammunition — without any neighbors knowing.” Which seems to beg the question of how a map of registered permit holders might have alerted this person’s neighbors to his firearms ownership status. Also, there is no way of knowing who owns rifles and shotguns, even though they’re just as lethal as handguns, because New York does not require ownership permits for them. So what legitimate public interest is served by a newspaper outing legal handgun owners, who presumably (because felons cannot own firearms) have not committed any crimes?
Whatever their motivation, The Journal News was perhaps not prepared for the firestorm of criticism it ignited, which has prompted them to hire armed security for their editorial offices:
The armed guards — hired from local private security companies — have been stationed in The Journal News’s headquarters and in a satellite office in West Nyack, N.Y., since last week, said Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.
“The safety of my staff is my top priority,” Ms. Hasson said in a telephone interview.
Quite understandable, but for a newspaper that apparently believes the presence of guns in their readers’ neighborhoods constitutes a safety risk they should know about, doesn’t it strike anyone as ironic that it would then hire people with guns to protect its staff? The only point they seem to be proving is that guns help people feel safer. So wouldn’t a neighborhood full of legally-owned firearms be among the safest places to live? We already know the answer to that¹.
¹ With the caveat, of course, that mandatory gun ownership is no more libertarian than gun restrictions.