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Gun owner map ricochet: Blogger publishes journalists' personal data

A newspaper published names and addresses of thousands of legal handgun owners, generating widespread criticism. In retaliation, a blogger mapped the names and addresses of the journalists.

By Staff writer / December 27, 2012

Hand guns that were turned in by their owners in a trash bin at a gun buyback held by the Los Angeles Police Department. People can anonymously trade in their guns, no questions asked, for $200 grocery store gift cards for automatic weapons and $100 gift cards for shotguns, handguns and rifles.

David McNew/REUTERS

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The flap over the newspaper that published information about handgun owners in two New York counties has ricocheted back toward the news organization.

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Thousands of critics – including some journalism professionals – have weighed in. And at least one blogger has retaliated by publishing the names and addresses of editors and executives at the Journal News, the publication headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., north of New York City and part of the Gannett organization.

Still, the Journal News is not backing down. Editors say they’ll publish information on handgun owners in a third county (Putnam) once county officials have responded to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that resulted in tens of thousands of names and addresses in Westchester and Rockland Counties.

The controversy began over the weekend when the Journal News ran a story on some 44,000 registered handgun owners in the two counties, including names and addresses showing exactly where those gun owners live using Google Maps. “The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood,” read the headline.

In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six school employees, quickly followed by a raging debate over gun control and Second Amendment rights, it’s not surprising that journalists would look for fresh and provocative angles to cover the story.

David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” has taken flak for showing an ammunition magazine in his interview with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre last Sunday. Such large-capacity magazines are banned in the District of Columbia, where the show was taped.

The online magazine Slate has partnered with the anonymous creator of the Twitter feed @GunDeaths to craft what it calls “an interactive, crowdsourced tally of the toll firearms have taken since Dec. 14” – the day when 20-year-old Adam Lanza, armed with an assault-style rifle, two handguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in large-capacity magazines, forced his way into the Sandy Hook grade school in Newtown.

The Slate map details 206 gunshot deaths in the United States since Sandy Hook, including 21 teens and children.

But publishing the names and addresses of legitimate handgun owners is seen as very different from tallying gun deaths or discussing aspects of weaponry. (The Journal News report does not include “long guns” – shotguns and rifles, including assault-style rifles – which do not require licenses.)

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