New York Restricts Access to Names of Gun Owners

28 January 2013

The controversial publication by a New York newspaper of public records showing the names and addresses of handgun owners has resulted in a state law restricting disclosure of ownership data, backtracking by the newspaper, and a great deal of debate within journalism circles.

The controversy arose after The Journal News published an interactive map showing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. (See previous report.) The newspaper has subsequently removed the detailed information from its website, eliminating the ability to find names and addresses.

The publication of the map came in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut, which also sparked the New York state legislature to pass stronger gun controls.

The new law, passed Jan. 15, banned the release for the next 120 days any information about gun permit holders in a new statewide registration database, according to a New York Times report. Gun permit holders will have the right to have their names and addresses removed from the database by contacting their local county clerks or police departments.

The New York Times reported that most states already keep permit holder information private.

The new law and the controversy is discussed in an article by Sara Morrison in the Columbia Journalism Review. In the same magazine, Susan McGregor examined the controversy within the journalism community.

Among other objections, gun rights activists argued that they were stigmatized and their privacy was being violated and could lead burglars to their homes.

The addresses of some Journal News editors were posted online in retaliation and the newspaper hired armed guards in response to threats.

Janet Hasson, Journal News president and publisher, said in an emailed statement, “While the new law does not require us to remove the data, we believe that doing so complies with its spirit.”

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