Registered gun owners in Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties in New York were in for a shock earlier this week when their addresses and names were released, and mapped, in an article written by The Journal News titled “The Gun Owner Next Door: What you Don’t Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood”. While this information is available under freedom of information laws, this simple act has sparked some outrage among gun owners and privacy advocates alike. In an article by the New York Times about this outrage one commenter to the original article is cited:
Understandably, gun owners and privacy-rights activists are rather upset. The article, posted Saturday, has since received nearly 2,000 comments, most of them criticizing the newspaper. “This is the type of thing you do for sex offenders, not law-abiding gun owners,” wrote commenter Curtis Maenza. Others pointed out that the map could in fact help promote additional crimes, by highlighting homes that do not have guns, providing “a list of homes to avoid, now knowing that the other homes in the neighborhood are not armed and thus easier to invade,” wrote commenter Joseph Conklin.
There has also been retaliation towards The Journal News itself, as a blogger has released the names and addresses of some key staff following the publication of the gun owner article.
Does the freedom to access such information make it appropriate to use in this format or is it an obvious breech of privacy? Some of the arguments that this list will put gun owners at harm, whether for being chastised for owning a gun or targeted by those who want to steal the guns, would suggest that this was an inappropriate use of free information while others have argued that it allows you to know who can protect you if needed.
This whole situation raises so many ethical questions, and makes me wonder how easily accessible (legally and illegally our information truly is in this technology age. What is your opinion?
Written By Georgianna Reilly, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer