In Gun Database Debate, One County Decides “Rule of Law” Takes a Backseat to “Right and Wrong”

by Categorized: Data, First Amendment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Politics, Public Safety, Transparency/FOI Date:

A New York newspaper’s decision to publish a map with the names and addresses of area pistol-permit holders continues to generate backlash, with officials in one county now saying they won’t comply with a state law mandating that such information is public.

As reported here last week, the Journal News, a paper covering several counties north of New York City, published a map pinpointing the exact location of homes in Westchester and Rockland counties whose residents had permits to own a handgun. Putnam County had begun assembling the same data in response to the newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act request. But following a firestorm of controversy, county officials have now scheduled a news conference Thursday to announce they won’t release the data.

“There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and the Journal News is clearly wrong,” Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said in a statement to the Reuters news agency.

In this case, the rule of law is clear; the New York State statute covering firearms licenses states that “The name and address of any person to whom an application for any license has been granted shall be a public record.” But that has held little sway with local politicians, who were inundated with calls from gun owners upset at the prospect of being identified.

State Sen. Greg Ball called publication of the data “unethical” and blamed “asinine editors” for the decision to put the information on the Web. His office issued the press advisory for Thursday’s announcement, under the label “Putnam County Officials Stand Up For Law-abiding Gun Owners.”

The Journal News, which is owned by Gannett, quoted Ball as saying: “The county clerk has my full support to protect these law abiding citizens and if The Journal News thinks they can intimidate Putnam, they are sorely mistaken. Before I waver, the egghead editors at the Journal News can kiss my white, Irish behind.”

Reaction from readers and gun enthusiasts has been similarly harsh, leading to threats against newspaper employees, a local blogger’s effort to map the home addresses of scores of staffers at the paper, and a call by a New York gun group to boycott advertisers of Gannett newspapers. “The Journal News has put in harm’s way tens of thousands of lawful license holders,” officials with the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association wrote. “This action by the Journal News can only be viewed as an attempt to intimidate and bully lawful gun-owning citizens.”

Many journalists have also criticized the publication, saying that in the absence of additional analysis – such as comparing the database of permit holders against a database of convicted criminals or those named in restraining orders – the data has little public value.

But some have defended and praised the reporting, which showed that one in 23 adults in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties have permits to own handguns. Some commenters said they appreciate the ability to see which homes in their neighborhoods may have firearms, while others dismissed the claims that gun owners were put at risk by the publication, saying gun-permit records in New York has been public for years.

And one poster said critics have it all backwards, saying it isn’t the gun owners who should be upset by the publication. “It puts the unarmed population in harms way,” wrote one poster on Facebook. “Now the bad guys know who cannot put up a competent defense and therefore will choose the unarmed instead of a firearm owner’s house.”

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41 thoughts on “In Gun Database Debate, One County Decides “Rule of Law” Takes a Backseat to “Right and Wrong”

  1. Steve Gee

    Yeah, let’s “stick it” to the 2nd amendment crowd. You know, those citizens with the gall to go TO law enforcement to be fingerprinted, photographed, and go through a background check to comply with all laws and regulations to be LEGAL. Let’s punish them. They MUST be the problem.
    Exhibit A of liberal unintended consequences: Those pesky criminals currently behind bars (you know, those determined by the courts to be a danger to the public) are now using this “public” information to threaten the prison guards (you know, who are licensed to carry firearms)

    Wonderful. But we can’t complain, after all, it’s public information isn’t it?

    Just curious but, will the “Journal News” be publishing the names and addresses of the gun-toting security guards THEY HIRED ?
    If not, then why not?

  2. Stan

    I love how the gun lobby and gun owners can’t decide whether this makes them safer, or in more danger. In one post, they’re now targets. In another, everyone who doesn’t own a gun is now the target. My take is publishing this map doesn’t change much – no criminal is EVER going to use a newspaper map to identify their victims. I will be waiting in the cyber nether for the crime wave based on the publication of this map. I have a feeling it will be a long time.

    1. Dave

      You must have missed the reformed criminals (who now work for the FBI) who indicated that the map was a gold mine to criminals.

      Both groups, gun owners and non-gun owners, are now targets. If you want to steal something and not worry about someone with a handgun, the non-gun owners are now known.

      If you want a gun (to sell or use in other crimes), all you need to do is wait for the lawful owners to leave, then break in and take it.

  3. Bill

    I can’t understand how this issue has developed legs. I don’t envision any advantage allowing printing lists of gun owners other then irritating gun owners. I have no reason to irritate them. I just want to repeal the 2nd amendment and have most of their guns handed in. But to publish owners of guns. It sounds like a grade school antics.

    When we abolish the 2nd amendment, we then ca outlaw assult weapons. We can outlaw handguns. We can place penalties on gun owners we refuse to hand them in. It may take 50 or 100 years to,clean up the mess but it can be done.

    1. joe

      Are you for real ? Abolish the 2nd amendment. Ok then where does it stop Abolish all the amendments. Abolish the complete bill of rights ? Hand over everything you won to YOUR government. Just asking?

      1. Bill

        Joe, for this argument, it starts and ends with the 2nd. That is the one that is archaic and no longer valid. The states wanted protection against an all powerful government. And the only arms in use at the time were single bolt action muskets. We are a nation of laws and no need to prepare to man the state frontiers fearing a federal assault.if you want to keep your single action bolt musket, please do. But not the assault weapons and semi automatic guns.

        I’m not toast toasty toward the 14th amendment but because it really doesn’t protect Americans anymore. But it does allow a foreign woman to give birth here and automatically allow her child to become a citizen and I don’t agree with that.

        Did I answer your question.

        1. Kacklelackle

          Bill- can we also roll back the other rights to what was in place when the constitution was written? no freedom of speech via radio, TV, phone, or internet for starters. My opinion is that the founders wanted freedom of speech to be on’y what could be spoklen and heard by those within earshot. They never intended for people to “speak” so widely and easily, especially w/o being hald accountable for their words. Let’s get back to the ‘good o’le days’ of the 1700’s as quickly as possible.

    2. Early Brown

      “When we abolish the 2nd amendment, we then ca outlaw assult weapons. We can outlaw handguns…”

      Excellent. At least you understand and acknowledge that “Assault Weapon” and handgun bans should be prohibited under the 2nd Amendment.
      That’s a start!

      1. Bill

        Does it matter which comes first; the chicken or the egg? Ban all assault rifles and hand guns and repeal the 2nd in order to prevent the high court from striking down anti gun legislation.

      2. bill

        Early Brown you have tardy reasoning. I didn’t say but anyways, go have a beer tonight and tell em it’s on me. Take a break.

    3. Dave

      Respect your honesty, Bill.

      Most folks with your position don’t seem to want to acknowledge that the 2nd Amendment says what it says.

      1. Bill

        I acknowledge that it says what it says. Taken literally, it speak of a well regulated milita then it speaks of the people. This is a contradictory statement by today’s reasoning. We must define a well regulated milita to the state reserves not a collection of beer belly bald-headed old geezers that could hardly make it running zig zag up a hill holding a carbine in one hand and holding up their pants with the other.

        The late 18th century concern was focused on despotism of central government then existing inEurope and the American revolutionists wanted to prevent such a repetition.

        1. Sean

          As you acknowledge, the amendment is there to protect the states and citizens from an overreaching government.
          You know, kinda like the one that would declare that everyone must buy health insurance and Christian owned hobbyist supply corporations and church run hospitals have to offer insurance that includes abortions?

          It’s the 2nd that protects the 1st and all the others, especially the 10th, (though it’s doing a poor job of it so far.)

    4. Rally for Gun Reform Feb 14 at Capital 11AM

      Bill, I was going to agree with you. But I just realized that you are me.

      Right on bro.

  4. W C Pattison "Bill"

    Perhaps we need to also publish all those who receive fed or state gov’t funds, who are on welfare, food stamps or other sources of taxpayer support, who are convicted of DWI or Drunk Driving, who are proscribed mind altering meds or under psychiatric care and may be a danger to the public, or who have been involved in domestic violence or had an abortion, or who are delinquent in their taxes. This could balance the issue and make the public record really worth something.

    1. Bill

      But my remark was. That publishing lists of gun owners is foolish and it achieve nothing. I’m not in favor of it.

  5. Mike Constitution

    You anti-Americans, by way of the leftist politicians you support, imposed your ineffective Gun Free Zones and that makes you just as responsible for the slaughter of those children as the crazy young man that knew he could go to your defenseless “safe” zone and kill unimpeded. You and your power hungry politicians should be prosecuted as accessories to murder.

    1. Bill

      We have. Medication for you and the meninwhite coats will be arriving at your home to slip you into the newest stylistic straight jacket and take you to the happy farm.

      1. Sean

        And this right here is why the very Idea of using mental health information to decide who can be armed is disturbing.
        Who decides what it a mental health issue?
        Heck, with circular logic you can say that desire to be able to stand up to tyrants is a mental disorder, (tyranophobia?), and any such sufferer needs to be disarmed. You can say that anyone who wishes to be armed at all is suffering from a mental disorder (armaphilia?) and should be disarmed.

  6. Anonymous

    Just because information is legally “public record” doesn’t mean it has to be published by a newspaper. The intent of the publication was clearly to intimidate lawful citizens and “chill” their Second Amendment rights. The publication does absolutely nothing to address the ILLEGAL gun violence in this country. And passing additional gun legislation is like trying to punish illegal drug users by making prescription drugs more difficult to obtain. It’s time to address the REAL issue of gun violence. The inner city shootings of minorities.

  7. bewisetoday

    It’s interesting, if you do go to that map, you’ll see the overwhelming majority of gunowners are men, and little if any women at all. Again, the initial premise that Nancy Lanza even owned a Bushmaster Assault Rifle seems highly unlikely. So if the first “truth” is a lie, what else is a lie?

    1. Sean

      This is itself unfortunate.
      A couple pounds of handgun makes a great equalizer. An armed woman is far less likely to be raped and brutalized than an unarmed woman.
      However, mindset counts, as does shot placement. It’s not a matter of picking up a gun and being safe; never point a weapon at anyone unless you’re fully willing and ready to use it, otherwise, someone’s likely to call your bluff and then you’re worse off than if you never had a gun in the first place.

      1. Sean

        As an addendum, how many of those are dual adult households, where the man holds the permit but the woman knows how to use it if necessary?

    2. Repeal the 2nd Amendment Bill

      Don’t forget that the majority – no, everyone in this gang of monkies is a paranoid white male whose insecurity is only superseded by his ignorance.

  8. Lars Arden

    My neighbor, who does not own any guns, has often said to me “If anything really bad happens I am coming to your house because I know that you are ready to protect us”!
    So, if anything bad happens and the government has taken my only real self-defense tool away from me, I guess that we will both in deep s..t! I know that 911 will not be of much help because when seconds count……you know the rest!

  9. Lars Arden

    There is going to be a rebellion in many forms just like
    Prohibition in the 20’s. Our resolve may bear fruit as it
    did in 2010 when the liberals were voted out of office. Hopefully the crowd led by Obama-The-Pied-Piper will wake up by then and stop being bought off by toys such as free cell phones otherwise America will just be another banana
    republic! Wow, isn’t that a future to look forward to; long bread lines, nobody working and everyone waiting with their hands out while Obooboo takes another vacation!

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