Gawker, the Manhattan-based gossip site, posted a searchable list of licensed gun owners in New York City, following a move last month by a newspaper in nearby Westchester County to publish a map of pistol permit holders.
The information was obtained from the New York Police Department via a Freedom of Information Law request in 2009, Gawker writer John Cook said yesterday in a posting on the blog, which is owned by Gawker Media LLC. The 446-page list dates from 2 1/2 years ago and contains names but not addresses.
The move thrusts Gawker into a growing debate over gun control and the privacy rights of firearms owners, sparked by the shooting deaths of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school on Dec. 14. The White Plains, New York-based Journal News drew outcry last month when it published a map showing the names and addresses of handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties, seeking to better inform readers about firearms in their neighborhoods.
Other community newspapers have criticized the Journal News for singling out people who have obtained permits legally and putting them at risk.
“While the information is public record, what they’ve done is point out all these homes to criminals and burglars and also point out all those homes that don’t have weapons that they could target,” William J. Pape II, the editor and publisher of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American, said in an interview.
Unlike New York state, Connecticut prohibits the names of gun permits owners from being released. In New York, the names must be requested at the county level. Last week a group of Rockland County lawmakers held a press conference vowing to make New York gun information confidential.
The elementary-school shooting took place in Newtown, Connecticut, about 20 miles from the border with Westchester County. Rockland County is situated to the west, north of New York City. The Journal News, owned by Gannett Co., also wants to provide data on nearby Putnam County, though it said officials there haven’t complied with the request.
In the wake of publishing the gun map, the Journal News has hired armed guards to protect itself against threats, according to the New York Times. Gawker said in a separate post yesterday that its staff began receiving death threats after its gun list was posted.
Activists and lawmakers such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have proposed stricter gun regulations following the shooting. The massacre left 28 dead, including the gunman, his mother and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.