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Sharp criticism after New York newspaper publishes names of local gun owners

The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on registered handgun owners in the area. Many owners and other critics are outraged that criminals now know where the guns are – and aren't.

By Staff writer / December 26, 2012

A customer tests a Glock 20 10mm handgun at the Guns-R-Us gun shop in Phoenix, Dec. 20, 2012. With the possibility of new gun legislation on the horizon, many local gun shops have seen an increase in sales.

Ralph D. Freso/REUTERS

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Two fundamental rights many Americans hold dear – the right to own firearms and the right to access public information – have collided in the decision by a New York-area newspaper to publish the names and addresses of people licensed to own handguns.

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The Gannett-owned Journal News, headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information on some 44,000 registered handgun owners in Westchester, Rockland, and Putnam Counties, just north of New York City. It then published that information online over the weekend using Google Maps to show exactly where those gun owners live.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, gun ownership is a touchy subject – politically and socially – and the decision by The Journal News to obtain and publish such information has drawn sharp and critical response.

In a blog post headlined “Intimidation,” Ben Shapiro at Breitbart.com warned that “publishing the names and addresses of gun owners makes them more vulnerable to robbery when they aren’t at home, since criminals will know where the guns are.”

Other critics have suggested that the published information also points to the addresses that don’t have registered handguns – perhaps making them more of a target for armed criminals. “It reveals to criminals which homes *are not* protected by a firearm,” tweeted conservative talk-show host Tammy Bruce.

Many commenters on Facebook and other social media weighed in, some publicizing the names and home addresses of Journal News editors and reporters.

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