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N.Y. newspaper's map of local gun owners: A cheat sheet for burglars? (+video)

Gun owners whose names and addresses were published on a 'gun map' in a New York newspaper are angry. But a county official suggests that the map shows burglars which homes to avoid.

By Staff writer / January 3, 2013


Did the Lower Hudson (N.Y.) Journal News, which recently published a "gun map" showing the names and addresses of registered gun owners, ultimately provide a service for criminals by showing which non-gun-owning homes may be safer to burglarize?

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Up until now, gun owners have been the ones protesting the decision last month by the Gannett-owned newspaper, saying it put "in harm's way tens of thousands of lawful license holders," according to the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association.

But a "dumbfounded" Robert Astorino, the top elected official in Westchester County, N.Y., told The Washington Post Wednesday that "the newspaper did all the work" for criminals throughout the lower Hudson Valley area of New York who "are still deciding which house they're going to hit."

Since its publication on Dec. 22 – a week after the shooting of 20 grade-school children and six school staff in Newtown, Conn. – the gun map had fueled debate about journalistic ethics and media advocacy. But Mr. Astorino's comments have raised another contentious issue in the national gun-rights conversation: To what extent does gun ownership deter criminal activity?

Information about gun owners is a central point of disagreement in discussion about the Second Amendment. The federal government does not keep any inventory on who owns guns and for what reasons. It's left to states and counties to register and record people who sign up for concealed carry permits. The only published federal record about gun ownership is the number of background checks the federal government carries out.

Groups like the National Rifle Association have fought against a national gun registry, saying it would invite more gun-control scrutiny without providing any real benefit to public safety. But the local data is public, and the Journal News claims its gun map serves a legitimate purpose.

"I would love to know if someone next to me had guns … so I can deal with that," one Lower Hudson local, John Thompson, told the paper.

Yet critics question the Journal News's motives. Does knowing which neighbors are legally registered gun-carriers make a town safer, or is the map intended to demonize legal gun owners?

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