The Journal News finally took down their interactive map on Friday amid harsh criticism stemming from publicizing the identities and locations of those who lawfully own handguns. They’re insisting however that their decision to pull the map down had nothing to do with the criticism they received. Associated Press reported:
“[Journal News publisher] Hasson wrote that the decision to remove the names ‘is not a concession to critics that no value was served by the posting of the map in the first place. Nor is our decision made because we were intimidated by those who threatened the safety of our staffers,’ she said. ‘We know our business is a controversial one, and we do not cower.’”
So, why did they remove it? I think it really was because of the backlash they received, but they claim it’s because they want to abide by a provision that was stuffed inside New York’s new gun law. The provision doesn’t actually prohibit their gun map, but they thought that removing it would “comply with its spirit.”
The provision allows gun owners to “opt out” of being included in public records. According to AP, they have to give a reason for wanting their personal information protected from the public:
“The provision allows handgun permit applicants to ask that their personal information be kept secret for any of several reasons: if they are police officers, witnessed a crime, served on a jury in a criminal case or are victims of domestic violence. More vaguely, they can claim that they fear for their safety or they might be subjected to unwanted harassment. Permit holders can also ask that their personal information from previous applications be withdrawn from the public record, for the same reasons.”
The president of the New York News Publishers Association Diane Kennedy thinks that allowing people to opt out is lame. She said that a gun owner invoking the “unwanted harassment” reason is “a little bit of a stretch” because “it just makes it really easy for anyone to opt out without really giving a particularly strong reason.”
This is like those gun laws in California and other states that require you to give a good reason for wanting to own a gun. Saying that you want one for self-defense is not good enough. You have to provide them evidence that your life is in immediate danger.
Why in the world does a gun owner have to give New York officials a reason for not wanting his personal information made public for all the criminals to see? We’ve already seen victims in New York whose houses have been robbed following the publication of the Journal News’ gun map. Isn’t that reason enough?