A suburban New York newspaper that outraged gun owners by posting the names and addresses of residents with handgun permits removed the information from its website Friday.
The Journal News took down the data just three days after the state enacted a gun control law that included privacy provisions for permit holders.
The provisions were a reaction to interactive maps the newspaper published on LoHud.com that pinpointed thousands of permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties.
Gun rights activists had immediately complained that permit owners’ privacy was being violated. They said the map could guide burglars to their homes while police groups claimed the map could lead ex-convicts to the officers who had put them away.
The addresses of some Journal News staffers were posted online, and threats were called in to the newspaper’s offices. The newspaper hired armed guards in response.
Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement, “While the new law does not require us to remove the data, we believe that doing so complies with its spirit.”
She said the maps had been viewed nearly 1.2 million times since they were published Dec. 23. The newspaper sought the records under the state Freedom of Information Law after the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman who had killed his mother at home killed 20 first-graders and six educators and then committed suicide.
The maps remained online late Friday but could no longer be manipulated to find names and addresses.
State Sen. Greg Ball, the most vocal opponent of the posting, said, “Thank God The Journal News has finally realized the error in their judgment and done the right thing. … I am proud to have passed legislation keeping The Journal News from doing this ever again.”
On Tuesday, as part of a gun control bill, the state Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed new regulations that give permit holders several ways to opt out of the public record.
Applicants can ask to be exempted because they are police officers or served on criminal-case juries or are victims of domestic violence. They also can just say they might be subjected to harassment.
Hasson said Friday, “One of our core missions as a newspaper is to empower our readers with as much information as possible on the critical issues they face, and guns have certainly become a top issue since the massacre in nearby Newtown, Conn.”
The paper caused a stir on December 23 when it listed thousands of pistol permit holders in suburban Westchester and Rockland counties just north of New York City in an interactive map on its website.
Editor Caryn A. McBride hired gun-toting security guards to patrol the paper’s offices amid a flurry of angry emails and phone calls in the following days.
The paper hired the increased security from RGA Investigations & Security, a firm based in New City that provides services like protection and security guard certification, according to the Times.
The news came just days after the Journal News announced plans to publish an expanded list of even more permit-holding locals.
Along with an article entitled ‘The gun owner next door: What you don’t know about the weapons in your neighborhood,’ the Journal News map was compiled in response to the December 14 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, editors of the Gannett Corp.-owned newspaper said.
The next batch of names will be permit holders in suburban Putnam County, New York, where the county clerk told the newspaper it is still compiling information.
Some 44,000 people are licensed to own pistols in the three counties, the newspaper said. Owners of rifles and shotguns do not need permits, the newspaper said.
The publication prompted outrage, particularly on social media sites, among gun owners.
‘Do you fools realize that you also made a map for criminals to use to find homes to rob that have no guns in them to protect themselves?’ Rob Seubert of Silver Spring, Maryland, posted on the newspaper’s web site. ‘What a bunch of liberal boobs you all are.’
Republican state Senator Greg Ball of Patterson, New York, said he planned to introduce legislation to keep permit information private except to prosecutors and police.