Shortly after the Newtown shootings, the News filed Freedom of Information Law requests in Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam counties to uncover pistol-permit records. Despite some counties blocking gun-permit information, the paper managed to compile a list of gun owners in each area.
And the results are concerning at best.
Of its 16, 998 gun permits, Rockland County has 3,907 active ones. The remaining permits haven’t been active within the last five years. According to reports, the inactive permits include people who may have moved or died, since they never expire.
Westchester County offered names and addresses for its 16, 616 active permit owners. The Journal also managed to acquire limited information about the types of permits for the county.
Watch a gun owner talk about gun owner privacy:
Almost 5,000 Westchester residents have unrestricted permits allowing them to carry weapons at all times. Over 2,300 residents are permitted to carry guns for work. At least 6,900 residents have shooting permits and more than 11, 200 have target-shooting permits.
Putnam County responded to the Journal’s inquiry by noting it would take time to recover records, but estimated at least 11,000 permits within its borders. Gun proponents note that such access to gun owners’ information presents a danger.
“You’re giving a shopping list to criminals,” New York Rifle & Pistol Association President Tom King said. “Does it matter if you own 47 guns or you own one gun? Everybody likes to think that someone who has all of these guns is evil, that there’s some nefarious reason they have all these guns. There are collectors.”
“You have judges, policemen, retired policemen, FBI agents — they have permits,” Rockland County clerk Paul Piperto noted. “Once you allow the public to see where they live, that puts them in harm’s way.”
The report is also garnering negative reactions from citizens in the three counties. Over 500 comments appeared under a CNN article about the expose Tuesday night. Hundreds of angry people have called the paper, arguing the publication of gun owner addresses was illegal; some even threatened staff members.
CynDee Royle, NY Journal News editor and vice president, came to the paper’s defense. “We knew publication of the database would be controversial, but we felt sharing as much information as we could about gun ownership in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” she said.
“People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods.”
This is the second time the Journal News has received criticism for publishing information about gun-permits. Another article in 2006 received an identical reaction, though it didn’t spread through social media as much as the second one.