Shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Westchester, NY based newspaper, The Journal News, published the names and addresses of all licensed gun owners in the county. This was met with some support, but also harsh criticism. In response, The Journal News, deemed it necessary to hire armed guards for the protection of its property and employees. Was the disclosure legal?
The original logic behind the posting involved informing the public of handgun owner’s locations. Would you want to send your kid to to a house that had a licensed firearm? Some parents would not. The information was obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request. Anyone can file one of these requests and the newspaper’s actions were legal. In neighboring Putnam County, officials pledge to withhold permit holder information from the public. State legislators are also considering passing legislation to prevent this type of disclosure from taking place.
Many are critical of The Journal News‘ disclosure of these records because they criminalize legal gun owners and treat them like sex offenders. Thanks to The Journal News, home invaders now know where to avoid or where they can find a hand gun. Many of the permit holders are retired police and other civil service workers. Inmates in a Rockland County jail were reported taunting sheriff deputies and telling them that they know where the deputies live. FOIA requests are completely legal, however discretion must be taken when the public’s lives are in danger.