WASHINGTON: A New York newspaper has sparked an acrimonious debate over gun rights and privacy by publishing the names and addresses of thousands of handgun owners in an interactive map.
The Journal News obtained the records of residents with handgun permits under freedom-of information laws and published them as part of the paper's coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, prompting a widespread backlash.
There have been calls for boycotts of the paper and staff have been threatened, according to a Journal News story about the response. In retaliation, bloggers have already published what they believe to be the home addresses of the paper's publisher, editor and the reporter who wrote the story.
None of the comments on an accompanying Facebook page supported the paper's decision to publish the database, which was of permit-holders, not necessarily gun owners. One of the comments included the names and address of people thought to be on the paper's staff.
"I grew up in Westechester [sic] I looked over the list and I am offended. Why are there so few gun owners?" wrote one reader.
"Another liberal newspaper touting rights while violating them. Anything to exploit a tragedy to support the liberal agenda. Hopefully this time next week you'll be out of business," wrote another.
The map includes details of thousands of gun permits registered in Rockland and Westchester counties, which lie between New York City and Newtown, Connecticut, where 27 people were murdered in a primary school massacre by Adam Lanza this month.
The president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, Janet Hasson, was quoted in the story as saying: "New York residents have the right to own guns with a permit and they also have a right to access public information."
The editor and vice-president of news, CynDee Royle, said the paper knew publication of the database would be controversial, ''but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings".
"People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighbourhoods," she said. "Our freedom-of-information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied."
Publishing the database with a story headlined ''The gun owner next door: what you don't know about guns in your neighbourhood'', the paper noted that the reporter owned a registered .357 magnum.
Some angry locals pointed out that the database would be of most use to criminals looking to steal guns.
A Republican state senator, Greg Ball, called the editors ''asinine'' and called on the paper to take down its map.
''The Journal News has placed the lives of these folks at risk by creating a virtual shopping list for criminals and nut jobs,'' Senator Ball said.
A new poll shows most Americans support stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, but most oppose banning assault weapons, a move backed by the President, Barack Obama. Fifty-eight per cent of Americans in a USA Today/Gallup poll said they favoured stricter gun laws, up from 43 per cent in October 2011.
But the ban on assault weapons, a favourite target of gun-control advocates, has gained no significant support, the poll found, with 44 per cent supporting such a move and 51 per cent opposing it. In October 2011, 43 per cent supported an assault weapons ban and 53 per cent were against it.
with The New York Times, USA Today