There are a variety of ways of responding to a massacre of innocent people. This probably ranks up there in the top 10 worst ideas.
The Journal News story includes comments from both sides of the gun-rights debate and presents the data as answering concerns of those who would like to know whether there are guns in their neighborhood. It reports that about 44,000 people in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties are licensed to own a handgun and that rifles and shotguns can be purchased without a permit.It was accompanied online by maps of the results for Westchester and Rockland counties; similar details had not yet been provided by Putnam County. A reader clicking on the maps can see the name and address of each pistol or revolver permit holder. Accompanying text states that inclusion does not necessarily mean that an individual owns a weapon, just who obtained a license.
A gunman killed his mother, drove to an elementary school and massacred 20 first-graders and six adults, then shot himself. All the weapons used were legally owned by his mother.
Some responded by publicizing the home addresses and phone numbers of the reporter who wrote the piece, along with other journalists at the paper and even senior executives of Gannett. Many echoed the idea that publicizing gun permit holders’ names is tantamount to accusing them of doing something wrong, comparing the move to publishing lists of registered sex offenders.
But never fear, the journalists in question are ever ready to pat themselves on the back for their courageous decision to publish a massive amount of personal data for ends they themselves probably can’t quite articulate.
The Journal News is standing behind the project. It said in the story that it published a similar list in 2006.
“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular,” Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement. “We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”
Irony no. 1: No doubt quite a number of those gun permits are for people who’s job only exists because some people use guns irresponsibly.
Irony no 2: Newspapers can be used irresponsibly too.