The Journal News, a local paper in upstate New York has come under fire for publishing maps with the name and location of every registered gun owner in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, NY. The gun owner maps show counties saturated with guns. One has to zoom in all the way to street level before real spaces show up between the clusters of dots.
The published gun maps caused an uproar, mostly on the political right, with pundits angrily calling for the names and addresses of the Journal News to be published.
“Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of Journal News Media Group. “One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular.”
Isn’t there an easy compromise here? Publish the maps without the names and addresses. While yes, it is interesting to know which of your neighbors is licensed to own a gun (not the same as actually owning a gun), that does seem like an unnecessary intrusion into people’s privacy. The visual of the map, however, is quite telling, and a valuable component to a public debate happening right now. The Journal News went further than they needed to by calling out specific people—that seems more divisive than helpful—but the instinct toward providing raw data to facilitate a gun control debate very much in progress is a good one.