The Journal News published a map listing the names and addresses of residents in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties who have a permit for a gun. The article received a surge of responses once citizens in the coverage area realized their information had been published. The interactive map allows the reader to click on a location and have a pop-up appear with the permit owners first and last name and exact address.
The maps only represent residents with permits for handguns. Rifles and other non-permit required firearms were not included. Permits are issued for life; therefore, both active and historic permit holders, for the last five years, were represented on the Rockland County map. Historic meaning they even went as far as to list people whom have either died, moved, or haven’t updated their records. Westchester County, in contrast, requires permit owners to renew every five years.
In order to assemble a list of those with permits, The Journal News submitted a Freedom of Information request. TheFreedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a law that gives anyone the right to request and access information from the federal government. Upon request, agencies of the United States government are required to disclose records in accordance with the FOIA. All of the names and addresses were compiled through public records.
Do you feel there is an assumed privacy to having a gun permit? Yes, the government knows because in some states you are required to have a permit in order to own a firearm. But do you think it is right for your neighbors or strangers to be aware?
Was the paper wrong to publish the name and address information on each permit owner? Would you want to know if your neighbor owns a gun (legally in this case)?
What if newspapers began publishing similar maps displaying contact information for those who engage in other activities such as petty crimes?
Where would the line have to be drawn before it could become a list you would not want broadcast?