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US newspaper publishes map showing gun owners' names and addresses

The New York newspaper published the names and addresses of people who are licensed to own guns across two counties in the state – but were they right to do it?

A customer checks a shotgun at a shop in Texas
A customer checks a shotgun at a shop in Texas
Image: AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

A US NEWSPAPER has sparked a major debate after it published a map showing the names and addresses of people licensed to own guns across parts of New York.

The Journal News used a Freedom of Information request to obtain the information which shows that one out of every 23 adults in the area is licensed to own a handgun. The newspaper published the map on Saturday, eight days after  27 people were killed at shooting in Newtown in Connecticut.

In the map, seen below, each dot shows an individual who has a permit to own a handgun in the counties of Westchester and Rockland in New York. The map does not include people who own rifles or shotguns, which can be bought without a permit.

The newspaper emphasised that the map does not automatically mean that the person named owns a weapon, merely that they have been granted a license for one.

“In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and amid renewed nationwide calls for stronger gun control, some [...] residents would like lawmakers to expand the amount of information the public can find out about gun owners,” the newspaper said on its Facebook page.

However the move has met with a furious response online, particularly from gun owners who say that the publication of names and addresses could make people who own guns a target.

“You have no right to publish this”" said one commenter on the newspaper’s Facebook page. “This newspaper is automatically putting negative thoughts and ideas about individuals who own guns. Plus by doing this your newspaper is kind of making money on feeding peoples fears and the grief that has overtaken our country following Newtown. Shame on you!”.

In a story published on the site on Christmas Day, the newspaper said “hundreds” of people have complained about the map, with many more taking to online comments to express their anger.

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“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular,” Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of Journal News Media Group said in a statement defending the decision. “One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular.”

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.

The Google Maps image showing the addresses of all handgun permit holders across two New York counties (Image: Maps)

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