The stakes -- and the pageviews -- keep rising in the debate over gun control in the United States in the wake of the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children, six adults and shooter Adam Lanza dead. But the latest salvo will undoubtedly invite accusations of stunt journalism.
Two weeks after the Journal News in New York's northern suburbs published a map of local gun permit owners, Gawker on Tuesday published an article accompanied by a searchable list of all the licensed gun permit owners in New York City.
And Gawker didn’t tread lightly when headlining the piece, calling it “Here Is a List of All the A--holes Who Own Guns in New York City.”
The move is likely to cause a firestorm among gun advocates, as did the Journal News story published on Dec. 23. The Westchester County newspaper posted a mapped breakdown of every licensed gun owner in Westchester and Rockland counties, an area not far west of Newtown. Gawker may have more trouble justifying their list as being in the interest of public safety, since, unlike the Journal News list, it contains only names, not addresses. Gawker's John Cook, who published the story, had obtained the list via the NYPD two-and-a-half years ago in response to a FOIA request.
"Because the NYPD is more interested in raping and/or eating ladies and spying on Muslims than it is in honoring public records law, the list contains only the names, and not the addresses, of the licensees," Cook wrote, referring to various scandals and controversies in the department.
Data on gun owners in all New York counties is required by law to be available to the public, and the lists for New York City as well as Westchester and Rockland were obtained via the legal process of filing Freedom of Information Act requests with relevant law enforcement agencies.
But just because gun ownership logs are public records doesn’t mean that gun owners are happy to see their names – or their addresses – listed online for the world to see.
In fact, the posting of the Westchester and Rockland data was followed swiftly by a wave of threats against employees of the Journal News, and they were not limited to the employees involved in the release of the information, which was accompanied by an online article called “The Gun Owner Next Door: What You Don’t Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood.”
In fact, the New York Times reported on Sunday that some of the targeted employees had absolutely nothing to do with the story, and that the paper hired guards in response to the threats.
The names of a number of high-profile New Yorkers are included on the list, including actor Robert DeNiro, Fox News head Roger Ailes and radio personality Howard Stern. But without the accompanying addresses, there is no way to verify for sure that the names belong to who we think they do, unless one can cross-refernence the names to a state-run database that does include the addresses.
In its article accompanying the NYPD data, Gawker cited comments by conservative personality Ann Coulter, who the news site reports said the following on Fox News last week:
"If we're producing lists of gun permit owners, I want them for Manhattan. I want to know how many rich liberals with their bodyguards have gun permits."
Click this link to be taken to the Gawker article, where you can view the searchable NYPD gun permit database in its entirety.