The New York newspaper, The Journal News, is coming under fire for publishing an interactive database of all residents with handgun permits in Westchester and Rockland counties.
The map ran with a story late last month called “The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood,” and notes there are 44,000 hand gun owners in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties—about one out of every 23 residents.
Critics say the map is an invasion of privacy, shows burglars which homes to avoid and puts residents’ lives at risk.
The outrage –which pits the first amendment against the second amendment–comes as students at Sandy Hook elementary school returned to school on Thursday following last month’s horrific shooting in Connecticut.
The Gannett-owned publication defended itself in a statement, “We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting.”
The controversy over the publication of the database has gotten so tense that the paper has reportedly hired armed guards to guard employees at two of its offices.
Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell joined Hardball on Thursday night. In Odell’s county, which is nearby Westchester and Rockland, officials refused to hand over details about hand-gun owners to the paper, despite state law saying the information is public record.
Odell told MSNBC guest host Michael Smerconish that the county would not give up the information out of safety concerns for all residents.
“We’re really looking at this from a privacy issue. We’re looking to make sure our constituents’ safety is primary…We want to make sure they’re families are safe and themselves are not put at risk because of this.”
She added it’s also about “residents who choose not to have a weapon.”
Radio talk show host and former public advocate of New York City, Mark Green, argued Putnam County should make the information public.
“This is in the public domain, the information is publicly filed. Of course, the newspaper had a right to publish public information. The issue is was it right as a matter of judgment for them to do it,” said Green.
He compared the access to Megan’s law, which provides the public with access to detailed information on registered sex offenders.
“If you’re a convicted child molester, a neighbor might want to know that because…they could hurt someone else. There’s a spillover effect. Same things with guns,” said Green. “There may be people who think the more concealed weapons, the better. Fine—live in Texas or Florida.”