The Journal News, a New York State based newspaper, caused quite a bit of fuss when it published an article with the names and addresses of local gun owners, including an interactive map, after the Connecticut school shooting. They obtained the information through the Freedom of Information Act, which allows you to request public records.
Some people reacted saying that they thought the public should have the right to know if people in their neighbourhood own any firearms. Others thought it was an invasion of privacy and in fact very dangerous. Dangerous for two reasons: burglars could see which houses have guns and steal their guns or see which ones aren’t protected by guns and rob them, according to which logic you follow. As well as a lot of criticism the newspaper also received a suspicious powder in the post (which turned out to be harmless) and decided to hire armed (!) guards for their office. The Journal News is still planning to publish more names and addresses of gun permit holders once they get hold of the records.
When I saw the map the first thing that shocked me wasn’t the invasion of privacy but the amount of dots on the map. It’s a good visual of how much Americans love their guns. But that aside, I don’t know whether they should have published that list. Since having a gun still isn’t a crime in America I don’t really see the point. I think I agree with Al Tompkins from Pointer.org who says that the problem wasn’t that the journalists were too aggressive but that they weren’t aggressive enough. They could have done something more interesting than simply publishing a list like that. For example link the guns in a certain area to the crime rate or research the flaws in the gun permit system. Although I’m not a fan of guns (quite the opposite) I understand the criticism on the article. But The Journal News don’t have to worry because technically they didn’t do anything wrong.