When I was a reporter, I answered the phone one day, and a man threatened to shoot me. The coward did it anonymously, of course, and quickly hung up.
He was upset because I wrote some articles about how the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department refused to allow me to review concealed weapon permits, despite the fact that they were and still are public records.
I was reminded of this after a New York newspaper posted the names and addresses of registered gun owners in its coverage area. The information is considered public record in New York.
The outcry after the interactive database went live was predictable. Gun owners were livid, condemned the newspaper and posted names and addresses of the publisher, editors and reporters. The newspaper hired armed guards to protect its workers.
The newspaper said in the aftermath of the Newton, Connecticut mass shooting, where 20 children and six adults were murdered by an armed man who later killed himself, people had the right to know if their neighbor owned a gun. A nearby New York county has now refused to release the names and addresses of its gun owners, clearly ignoring state law.
Now while I understand the newspaper’s reasoning, I don’t agree with it. People could easily find out who owned a gun by asking for records themselves. Just because a newspaper can print or post something doesn’t mean it should. Context is important.