Journal News Web Site Removes N.Y. Gun Owner Map

The Journal News said it is complying with a new New York State law allowing permit owners to remove their names from public records

The Journal News took down the map of gun owners in two New York counties, which it published shortly after last month's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. that left 20 first graders dead.

The Journal News Janet Hasson, the publisher of the West Nyack, N.Y. publication, said the paper was not caving in to the withering criticism it received from gun rights and privacy advocates, some of whom sent death threats to the paper. The paper eventually hired armed guards to protect its newsroom.

Rather, Hasson said the News removed the interactive database to comply with a new state law placing a moratorium on the release of gun permit holders' information.

"So intense was the opposition to our publication of the names and addresses," Hasson wrote in a statement posted on the News's website, "that legislation passed earlier this week in Albany included a provision allowing permit holders to request confidentiality and imposing a 120-day moratorium on the release of permit holder data."

NYSAFE, the state's new gun law, allows permit holders to request that their names and addresses be removed from public records, and that the database would soon be outdated and inaccurate.

She said the database had been live on the site for 27 days and "we believe those who wanted to view it have done so already," adding that she and her reporters were thanked by numerous residents in Westchester and Rockland counties.

A screenshot of the map showing the general location of gun permit holders remains on the website.

But as the days went on, the News even began facing criticism from leading print publications.

New York Times columnist David Carr questioned the ethics of publishing the gun owners' names and addresses.

"It is one thing to have a public database available that lets me look up whether the neighbor I am feuding with might have a gun permit," he wrote in a column published last Sunday. "It is quite another to publish the names and addresses of all my neighbors who own guns. The decision lacked a rationale."

In an op-ed page article four days ago, former Times executive editor Bill Keller echoed Hasson's concerns but said the database was already incomplete and therefore ineffective.

"The information The Journal News provided its readers is so far from complete as to be misleading," he wrote. "The public records identify only legal handguns."

He doubted critics' concerns that the map was a blueprint for potential burglars looking to steal firearms, but it appears he was wrong.

On Wednesday, a home in New City listed on the Westchester map was robbed by burglars seeking the guns that were kept in a safe in the house. Newsday reported that thieves tore through the house and broke into two safes on the home's third floor.