The Journal News Gun Map Isn't Public Service

Americans are all entitled to some level of privacy—gun owners included.

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The Journal News, which covers Westchester and Rockland counties about an hour north of the Big Apple, made big news recently when they listed the names and addresses of every person who holds a gun permit in those counties. Before then, most of us who don't live in those counties never heard of the Journal News.

The backlash against the paper has been huge. Even gun opponents and liberals felt the paper went too far and was irresponsible in it's decision. Now the Journal News folks claim they were performing a public service after the Newtown, Conn. massacre. At the time, I believed them. At the time I was OK with it. But now I have had a few days to think about this further.

What public service?!

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

I live in Los Angeles. I am a liberal, Democrat, a progressive. I hate guns, but I don't want to take away your Second Amendment rights. So you gun owners reading this, calm down, OK?

As a parent, I would love to know who does and doesn't have a gun in their home, because I don't want my kids anywhere near guns or a house with guns in it. I've read the statistics about how many kids are killed by guns in the home and I don't want my son or daughter to be one of those stats.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should There Be More Armed Guards in Schools?]

The problem here is threefold:

  1. Making this list public put gun owners in danger. There are former judges on that list—even reportedly a woman who was the victim of stalking. There are lunatics on both sides of the aisle, and we have already seen proof of that. There have been threats to the paper and it's personnel, even their families—so much so they had to hire security to protect them.  And there are gun owners who have been contacted by fanatical gun opponents who have threatened their lives as well. (The gun opponents wouldn't be using a gun, I assume?)
  2. What good does this do? Or will it do? The friends and neighbors in Newtown, Conn. knew that the shooter's mother was a gun collector who had guns in her home.  That did not prevent the massacre; nor will listing these people's names and addresses prevent any potential violent act by one of those gun owners or anyone in those homes in those two counties.
  3. It's a slippery slope. What's next? Lists of those who are on welfare? Lists of those who subscribe to pornographic magazines? You get the point. We as Americans are entitled to some level of privacy—gun owners included.
  4. [Take the U.S. News Poll: Should Ammunition Be Sold Online?]

    There was a time they would list deadbeat dads, men who solicited prostitutes, etc. But what the Journal News did is demonize gun owners. Most gun owners are responsible and do not go on shooting sprees. 

    In hindsight, it was a poor choice journalistically in my opinion. But as a business decision? Brilliant. The Journal News had more hits to their website than ever in the history of the paper, over a million. And not only do you and I know their name, but hey, I've mentioned it five times in this blog already. 

    So maybe there was a public service least for the Journal News. (And that makes six.)

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