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December 14, 2006

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New York Newspaper Invading Gun Owners Privacy?

America is a nation of laws…poorly written and randomly enforced.
—Frank Zappa
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 The system, it seems, is a shambles, relying on outdated records-keeping methods and a lack of communication among various government agencies rendering the whole enterprise ineffectual.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.


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First and foremost, the paper in question never should have been able to get this list of addresses in the first place. You have only to read the relevant article to understand the incompetence at work at the government level. The biggest bad guys in this story are the folks who allowed this county permit registry to devolve into the cesspool (index cards?) it's become.

So the paper guys are negligent in this, but we must at least thank them for exposing the fact that any enterprising member of the "public" could just as easily get this list on their own through a little research in the ol' gun registry index card stacks.

On another note, I can never understand how these folks could have such a negative view of LEGAL gun owners, until I read the forum connected to this article. Someone keeps trying to publish the journalist's address, while other posters, in their frustration, are talking about all the people they need to shoot.

Whatever happened to the Reluctant Participant? Sure, you can joke about shooting people you don't like. Until you also identify yourself as a gun owner in the same statement. It's just not funny anymore for some reason after that. People, violence and threats of violence aren't gonna help this situation.

LEGAL action needs to be taken. Not so much the paper, no matter how reprehensible they appear. But rather, against the gun registration system that has totally failed the law-abiding people who have given their good faith in this.

The government has failed, and fines and damages must be assessed until the situation is rectified. The proverbial ball has been dropped, now sitting in the corner half deflated and they still haven't picked it up.

Just some thoughts


at least you have the right to conceal/carry DP. here in wisconsin, gov. doyle (D) refuses to pass the bill.


I remember a few years ago some newspaper in Indiana I believe pulled the same stunt as a "public service" to its readers to warn them that a gun-crazed lunitic such as us may be living next door. So in the spirit of an eye for an eye the gun-crazed lunitics published the name, address (including a map to his home), age, phone number, family members, etc, etc of the editor whose brain-child that was. Apparently he got so many editorial phone calls in the middle of the night he was forced to change to an unlisted number, or so I heard. You know what they say, whats good for the goose...


Let anyone come to my house and try and take my guns away from me...I'll be waiting cocked locked and ready to rock!!!

Rick Wolff

I have a trebly unique perspective:
1. I work at The Journal News' circulation department;
2. I am of your camp politically, though I don't own firearms;
3. My father is Dick Wolff, long-time "Parting Shot" columnist in Mr. Petzal's competition, Guns & Ammo.
I posted in the forum on our Web site, LoHud.com (and invite you to do so), where there's some pretty ferocious debate, some of which had to be taken offline for the safety of employees and innocent residents who have the same names.
Mr. Petzal is the only other voice on the Internet about this story that observes that gun ownership is supposed to, among other things, deter crime and defend homes. For many burglars who don't want to get shot, this is a "do not call list". It seems to me that it's the gun-control argument that says that guns owned by non-pros wind up stolen by the bad guys, and that's reason to restrict, and could be reason to round them up by force, if it ever got that far. Those who argue this way, it seems to me, give ammunition to their opponents (pun intended). I didn't get very far in support. Maybe you folks could lend a hand.
The other thing that rankles me is that the lower Hudson Valley has more conservatives than the average south NY county, but the paper seems to stick to a left-of-center journalistic template that threatens to render big-iron journalism obsolete.
My department is working hard to boost subscriptions, and soon, unfortunately, to counter the boycotts and cancellations.


In my home state--West Virginia--the issuance and renewal of concealed weapon permits must be made public. Most counties handle this by posting a list at the courthouse and by listing the names and city of residence of those who have been issued a permit in the courthouse news section of the local paper. This section also includes land transfers, applications for marriage, divorces, magistrate convictions, and such.

The funny thing is that most people that I know that have a permit see it as a badge of honor to have their name listed.

I am not saying that I agree with the position of the paper, but I imagine that this information was already available to anyone who sought it. I would imagine that this information is readily available through various freedom of information or open government acts.

Dave Petzal

I've found that about the only thing that can get the publisher of a newspaper or the producers of a TV news program to change their minds is for people to write letters to the major advertisers of these properties politely informing them that they will no longer subsidize these news operations by buying from the people who sponsor them.

Editors and publishers are supposed to have some guts, and frequently do, but only up to the point where it affects their revenues.


Another example of the typical persecution of law-abiding gun owners.The anti-gun people are like a lynch mob and it is the media that whips them up into a frenzy, just like in the old days when innocent people were hung.This is just another example of the ugliness of prejudice. Drunk drivers kill thousands of people and yet this editor did not publish the names of CONVICTED impaired drivers. They would be more of a danger to children than a law-abiding gun owner. Perhaps he allows his children to drive around with an impaired driver at the wheel.

Dave V

You won't catch these editors or writers publishing the Names of those convicted of DWI/DUI who kill many more children than legal gun owners. Of course, that's a given.

Then, also how many of these reporters and editors have such convictions on their records?


What ever happened to ethics in Journalism?
I happen to be going to school at the Universtity of Missouri Journalism school, and all I've heard for the past 3 semesters involves ethics, fact checking, etc.
So, when I see this kind of junk floating around, it makes me want to puke.
It doesn't matter if they removed the adresses, because in an area as small as that it would be easy as hell to figure out adresses, and if you had a laundr list like that, theres alot more knowledge that can be figured out then just if they own guns.
I'm getting just so tired of crap like this. Thats why I'm going into magazine journalism and biology...so I don't get stressed out by all of this junk.


What an obvious example of liberal slander. Anyone who's read Freakonomics will tell you that your kid is a thousand times more at risk having a "play date" at a house with a pool, than if that house would have a gun instead. Or did the writers of that article have reasons other than safety concerns to brand gun-owning homes as undesirable for "play dates" - such as the concern that people who still own guns also still believe in God and are still mainly heterosexual.
Field and stream should publish a list of pool owners in westchester, including the liberal hate-mongers who wrote that piece.



Were you talking about a Conceal and Carry Permit, or a Possesion Permit?

I think our fellow Bloggers outside of NY need to know.

Dave Petzal

To Lee: If you are going to trumpet tomatoes, do it someplace useful, please. If you're looking for a stress-free occupation, head for the monestary nearest you. And finally, there are no more ethics in journalism than there are in medicine, law, politics or any other sleazoid enterprise.

To Tom: I assume the list included both types of permit. So-called restricted permits (target shooting and hunting) are relatively easy to obtain. To get a concealed carry permit, you must be able to demonstrate need, and those are not handed out to everyone who applies.

Here in Canada, the media( newspapers, CBC radio, etc.) is the propaganda machine for the Liberals. I suspect it is the same in the U.S. These people do not report the news objectively but instead are biased. I guess this is nothing new and has happened throughout both Canadian and U.S. history.The media is also interested in selling their papers, etc. and so will go to any length to make a controversy so that people will buy their product. But the media is a powerful tool.It has been said that "the pen is mightier than the sword" and these people should be more responsible and accountable.

Steve Clark

If I were a thief, I'd love to have that list; I could avoid those houses that had firearms and hit the ones in which there were none.

Gene E. Siburn

He may not have published the addresses but I would think anyone who can open the file would be able to open a phone book. If you are not unlisted your address is in print for anyone to read.


I can't believe this. If I was an attorney in New York, I would have a whole room(s) full of people calling these folks and arranging a class action suit against the paper and end up either owning it, or closing it ! What has happened to the freedom, we fought and died for ?


The newspaper should be held responsible for any robberies at those residences. All they did is tell the bad guys where to break in to get a handgun to sell on the black market, and then they will want to blame the gun owners for having them. IRRESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM!!!!!!!


It is outrageous that the Journal News would aid and abet criminals and dare I say Terrorists but in this case they did. If a terrorist is looking for a place to hold up he would pick a home with no guns, if he choose to reload pick a house with guns. It is the most irresponsible thing I have seen in the Journal Rag. I along with may others will cancel my subscription. I ask those who advertise in the paper to find other means. If you sell cars and advertise in the Journal you will get no sale from me. It is time to support alternative medias. Meanwhile the legality of this release is being looked into by many.

Jim Kiser

When I was working as a fire captain in Arlington Va. we used to keep a list in our vehicle which had all the addresses in our area that had communicable diseases such aids and hepatitis. When it was discovered what we were doing we were told to stop as it was an invasion of privacy. Isn't amazing the number of groups who expect and get privacy from the media elite and goverment such as Muslim imams and terrorists but others don't. By the way the Fredricksburg Va. newspaper was doing the same thing claiming the public had a right to know. Jim


What do you expect from a state that elects Hillary Clinton. I've heard she was running for president. My advice dont vote for her, as she is a strong environmentalist. This is an invasion of privacy in Nevada. I'm happy I live out west.

Nick Pagliuca

The act by this rag "newspaper" of publishing my personal information along with the information of thousands of other lawful firearms owners is an affront that should not go without retribution. It behooves each and every person whose personal information was posted by the Journal News to suspend any support of this rag and to boycott any businesses that advertise in it. It is time to hit them where it hurts, in their "wallet". I have have numerous issues with this paper over the last 3 decades. Once when I was asked by a reporter from the Journal News if I was interested in the truth concerning a certain story, I replied, "if your paper was really interested in the publishing the truth there wouldn't be a price on its cover they would give it away. The truth cannot be bought"
It is time for the people of Westchester County to reject this "local" paper en masse. Anyone on the list and any of their relatives or friends should suspend their subscriptions and let businesses know they will no longer patronize them if they continue to advertise in in the Journal News. I, for one,will ask each time I enter a store if they advertize and if they do I will explain, just before I walk out, why I will no longer spend my money in their store.

John Ryan

Remember that NY is the state where Charlie Rangel cried, ..."but who the he** wants to live in Mississippi?" Gun owners and hunters, do. I used to live in Katonah near you, and I'll visit, but never move back. Limousine liberals abound. No toy guns, and no rich kids enlisting to join the Ranger Battalions either. Freedom isn't free. But it's the gun owners and soldiers fighting for their right to pull stunts.


Instead of tryingto contact The Journal News and complaining about the posting the names of legal firearm permits we need to call, e-mail and reach out to those who pay there bills.
TJN could care less what our opinion about the posting, as far as
they are concerned the more noise we make to them the better they
like it.

It was done,just like all the other recent anti-gun articlesthey have published, as pure harassment of the legal gun owners in NYS.

Gander MTN is a great company that I have used many time to buy new
and used firearms as well ammo and clothing. We need to ask Gander to politely stop advertising with the Gannett Newspapers until they apologize for this harassment to Gander's core customers, without us
there would be no Gander MTN, without Gander the ad revenue at Gannett goes down big time, Let them know, Contact information listed


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St. Paul, MN 55101
Toll Free: 1-888-5GANDER / 1-888-635-2614
Phone: (651) 325-4300

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