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.
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Meanwhile, bloggers have published addresses of Journal News employees, and the newspaper has hired armed guards in the wake of perceived threats sent by e-mail. Police have said the e-mails did not contain actionable threats.
The broader question of whether gun ownership deters crime yields vastly divergent – and often contradictory – findings, which activists on both sides have attempted to spin in their favor.
Fact-checking organizations note that the number of concealed-carry permit holders have soared during the past decade and that as many as 53 million US homes contain a gun. Yet violence has declined.
But other research suggests that gun ownership might be linked with crime trends in various ways.
It's "probably true that rising crime leads to a perception of increased threat and, therefore, an increase in the prevalence of gun ownership," Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis, told Factcheck.org. It's "also the case that making firearms more available is followed by an increase in firearm crime."
But does the Journal News map put non-gun owners in danger? There is evidence that some criminals are deterred by the possibility of their target being armed.
Forty percent of convicts had at some point decided against a crime because they worried that their victims were packing a gun, according to research by James Wright, a sociologist at the University of Central Florida. "One of the conclusions … was that bad guys do worry about armed potential victims, and to the extent possible try to avoid them," says Mr. Wright, author of "Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms."
But it is hard to determine whether criminals might go so far as to use the Journal News map, suggests Wright.
"The fact of the matter is most bad guys are criminal opportunists, and they're likely not going to take a map with them when they try to decide, 'Gee, should we burglarize this house because maybe it's the one without a gun?' " he says. "We know full well that [burglars] break into houses because there doesn't seem to be anybody home, but part of that calculation is also, 'There's nobody in there with a 12-gauge [shotgun] ready to cut down on me.' "