(CNN) — A newspaper in a New York suburb published a map of two counties, showing who has gun permits. Some people say it’s irresponsible journalism, while others say it’s clever and helpful.
It’s a local suburban newspaper outside New York City – with a large circulation.
Its editors say the Newtown, Conn. shootings – and the issue of gun control – are foremost in the minds of their readers.
So The Journal News did something extraordinary: publishing, on an interactive map, information on where all handgun permit-holders in the New York counties of Westchester and Rockland live.
On The Journal News website, all you have to do is zoom into a neighborhood, and the locations of any gun permits will show up with red dots. Tap one of those dots, and the name and address of the permit holder pop up.
The newspaper got that data by filing Freedom of Information requests with clerks of those counties.
The exact types of handguns in those homes is not on the maps. The maps don’t indicate whether the residents actually own guns, just that they’re legally able to and homes with shotguns or rifles are not included, because in those counties, those can be bought without permits.
But the move has brought serious backlash against The Journal News.
Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America voiced the same complaint made by some readers.
“I think it was a very irresponsible thing for the newspaper to do. They were telling burglars ‘go to the house next door. They’re not likely to have a gun because they don’t have a permit,’ which is required to buy a handgun in New York State,” says Pratt.
Or Pratt says, thieves who want to steal guns will know where to get them.
At this gun store in Virginia, which the manager didn’t want identified, CNN’s Brian Todd spoke to a gun owner.
["Would you be less likely to buy a handgun or any kind of weapon knowing your name and address could be published?"]
“No,” the owner replied.
“Um, if it’s a matter of public record, anybody could find out anyway.”
The newspaper also has considerable support for the maps.
In a tweet to CNN, a resident of Westchester County said: “Parents have right 2 know.”
Another tweet: “Please thank them for me. This could be a turning point. I do not want my daughter playing in a house with guns.”
Privacy Advocate Marc Rotenberg says this: “For a news organization, I think it’s a very clever use of public information, it certainly provides something that people are interested in knowing. But for gun owners of course, it raises a concern, because information that they thought would be kept private has now been made public.”
The editors and the publisher of The Journal News declined CNN’s requests for an on-camera interview, but one of the statements released says “We felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.”