Newspaper Publishes a Map Showing Where Gun Owners Live

Friday, January 11, 2013


Following the school massacre in nearby Connecticut, a New York state paper published a map showing the names and addresses of handgun permit owners in its readership area — all except for one county, where local officials have refused to provide the paper with the information. This decision violates explicit New York State law, but has a supporter in New York state Senator Greg Ball, who tells Bob why he's supporting Putnam County officials.

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Senator Greg Ball

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Bob Garfield

Comments [15]

Nelms from Georgia

The ACLU had no problem with the disclosure of the gun permit infomation to the public,but they are on record against the disclosure of similar public records of street security cameras of photos of state license plates!

Jan. 21 2013 08:38 AM
themisfitjoe from Orlando, FL

FOIA Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual's personal privacy.

This is what he's standing behind. And shame on the journalist for publishing the addresses. Its irresponsible journalism.

Jan. 17 2013 04:00 AM
Will Caxton

It should be noted that a map of handgun permits IS NOT the same as a map of gun owners. First, there will be some people who have permits who do not have guns: because they have not yet acquired a gun, because they got the permit but decided not to get a gun, because they have since sold or otherwise disposed of their gun. Second, and more importantly, there will be people who have guns who do not have a permit: because their guns are not handguns, or because they possess one or more guns illegally. How many times does it need to be said that some people don't obey the law? In terms of public health, I would infer that the people who have guns without permits are a greater risk than those who have guns and permits.

Jan. 15 2013 12:02 PM
Preston from Chicago IL

New York state Senator Greg Ball repeated stated that publishing a map of handgun permit owners somehow puts law enforcement officers in danger; LEOs don't have to get handgun permits. I like fish as much as anyone, but I draw the line at red herring.

Jan. 14 2013 11:41 PM
Rick K.

Senator Ball sounded more like a member of the executive branch of government, in talking about his support of Putnam County refusing FOIA requests. The Senator should recall that he is a legislator, and stick to working on legislation to support his views. Does he recall the "separation of powers", or is he seizing on this opportunity to grandstand and maybe eventually have a shot at running for President? Also, why was there no interview with a spokesperson for the newspaper, to get their point of view?

Jan. 14 2013 09:39 PM
falk burger

This is just another red herring that allows gun owners to pose as victims. All the gun owners I know are happy to advertise they own guns on the premise of "an armed society is a polite society." Indeed, if I were looking to hurt or kill or confront someone, nothing would give pause as much as the knowledge that I may pay for my action with my life.

Jan. 14 2013 01:05 PM

If guns are a "public health problem" why should we not publish the names and addresses of persons with an infectious disease? HIV, AIDS, hepatitus? Drug abuse is a health problem so shall we publish the name and address of drug addicts? You can't possibly argue for one and not the other.

Jan. 13 2013 09:22 PM

In the popular book Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the point is made that if you forbid your child to play at the home of a neighbor who has a gun but allow the child to play at a home with a swimming pool, that child is far more likely to suffer an accidental death.

"In a given year, there is one drowning of a child for every 11,000 residential pools in the United States. . . . Meanwhile, there is 1 child killed by a gun for every one million guns. . . . The likelihood of death by pool (1 in 11,000) versus death by gun (1 in 1 million-plus) isn't even close . . ."

This is cited as an example of how poor most people are at assessing risk.

No newspaper has ever published the names and addresses of swimming pool owners, despite that all have applied for a building permit to have one installed and despite the risk inherent in pools. I wonder how many of those who applaud the decision of The Journal News to publish the names and addresses of gun owners would likewise welcome having their names and addresses published along with a list of potentially dangerous items in or around their homes.

It's another example of *privacy for me good; privacy for you bad.*

Jan. 13 2013 08:49 PM

Perhaps, the paper was giving us a sample of what the recently called for 'universal gun registration' would look like.
If, in a federal 'emergency' (marshal law?), the government needed to confiscate people's guns, they would know right where to find them.
For criminals, this map also shows whose houses do not have firearms.

Jan. 13 2013 05:37 PM
Paul from White Plains, NY

I always find your program fascinating and balanced, and look forward each week to your exploration of subjects in the news and the news media. But I was concerned today.

You gave State Senator Greg Ball an extended period of time to air his views on the topic. I assume that you have researched and are familiar with his reputation for extremism, and, although he was recently reelected, the contempt in which he is held by many of his constituents and Senate colleagues. I would also assume that you asked Janet Hasson, the Journal News publisher, to appear, and that she declined, although you did not say that. How could you air such a one-sided story? Or did I miss something?

Jan. 13 2013 12:39 PM
Bill Amstutz from New York City

I'm surprised that you condemned the decision by The Journal News without giving them a chance to defend it. Usually you guys are great at getting both sides of a story. This is a glaring exception.

Jan. 13 2013 11:38 AM

I have to say that Wayne Johnson is woefully misinformed and clearly ignorant of the principle of civil disobedience. Under his theory, the civil rights protests of the 1950's and early 60's should not have been tolerated or upheld because they broke those state laws at the time. The fact they those laws were later found invalid was a RESULT of the civil disobedience, and this may well turn the same way. People have a constitutional right to own a gun and to privacy, and therefore either databases of those owning guns should not be allowed (not to be confused with background checks, that is a very different issue) or the law should have excluded these databases from FOIA requests.

Civil disobedience is a hallowed right, and one certainly risks a lot when exercising that right at times. But in this case I think State Senator Ball is 100% correct. I rather suspect that if Johnson had a wife or daughter that was put in danger by this kind of irresponsible reporting, he would not be so supportive of the decision. I find his position beyond understanding. Freedom of the press. like freedom of speech, does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theater. This is exactly what The Journal News has done, and they should be held to account for it.

Jan. 12 2013 10:26 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from Bk.

Bob called the decision of the The Journal News to publish the names and addresses of gun owners "dubious" and then OTM goes on to defend press freedom in China and India. Where were the representatives of The Journal News? If they were not available, why not at least read from their initial explanation for their excellent decision. The real problem here is the illegal move by Putnam County to withhold the information. Bob let Senator Cook get away with his rationalization for breaking the law. Terrible,one sided, interview. Mr. Garfield can pick on Craig Brittain for "terrible taste" but let a public official get with contempt for the law he is paid to uphold.

Jan. 12 2013 09:09 PM
Marty Siegrist from Michigan

While the information published was, indeed, a matter of public record, there was no news value in publishing the names and addresses of private citizens who are not otherwise legitimate objects of public scrutiny in such a manner. This was an irresponsible invasion of privacy, plain and simple. In this day and age, the decision to publish--as an interactive map, no less--borders on reckless disregard for both the privacy and the very safety of others.

Jan. 12 2013 07:33 AM

When Bob playfully "stipulated" that the Journal-News' publication decision was a dumb one, it really called to my mind the recent appearance of the New York Times Magazine's former "The Ethicist" columnist, Randy Cohen, on another WNYC program, The Takeaway:

Randy Cohen didn't simply say that the newspaper was to be excused; or somehow deserved congratulations. Cohen said flatly that the newspaper had an AFFIRMATIVE DUTY to publish the information because (a) the information is a public record and (b) guns are a public health problem.

I am not suggesting that Randy Cohen's risible and noxious views need a wider (public radio) audience, but he sure would have been an interesting foil for this particular discussion.

Perhaps, a wider audience for Randy Cohen's interview on The Takeaway would be useful, fueling opposition to his anti-gun leftism.

Jan. 12 2013 12:15 AM

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