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New York Newspaper Invading Gun Owners Privacy?
“America is a nation of laws…poorly written and randomly enforced.”
Here’s one for you to debate: On December 10, The Journal News, a newspaper that covers downstate New York, published an article on the handgun-permit system in three counties. The system, it seems, is a shambles, relying on outdated records-keeping methods and a lack of communication among various government agencies rendering the whole enterprise ineffectual. The most serious flaw, according to the article, is that when handgun owners die the permit bureaus are not notified of their deaths, and so thousands of their files pertain to deceased persons, and the agencies have no idea what became of their guns.
All of this is quite accurate. However, as part of the article, the Journal News published a URL where its readers could download a Microsoft Excel file containing the name and town of residence (actual addresses were omitted) of every handgun-permit holder in Westchester County (including myself).
Now there are several points of view about this:
It may or may not be an outrageous invasion of privacy.
It’s a terrific way of informing criminals where they can go to steal handguns.
It’s a terrific way of warning criminals which households to stay out of if they don’t want to get shot.
I was curious about the reasoning behind publishing the website, and e-mailed the paper. I received a reply from Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, one of the two reporters who did the piece. It said, in part:
“…The list serves as a database to be checked and purged by readers and/or officials. In addition, it was the belief among editors at the Journal News that many in their community would consider it a public service to know who among their neighbors and/or acquaintances has a weapon in their home, including parents making personal choices about play dates for their children, etc. (my Italics)
“The licensing and upkeep of pistol permits is also a public process carried out by public employees whose salaries and services are funded by the tax dollars of all citizens. It is therefore deemed by state lawmakers to be a public record….
“As a member of the media yourself, I am certain you are aware of both the newspaper’s right to publish the information and the responsibility shown in editing the public record to omit home address…”
Gentlemen, your opinions, please.