Foolish Decision By N.Y. Newspaper Sparks Public Backlash

Gun Owners Have Friends in Government

• Criminals could now not only learn at the press of a button which homes would likely not have armed protection but also where guns were available for the taking when the occupants were not home

By Pat Shannan

After New York newspaper publisher Janet Hasson approved the website display of an interactive map showing the home addresses of every licensed gun owner in Westchester and Rockland counties in N.Y., it set off what some people called a “battle royale”—a fight that took a new twist when neighboring Putnam County drew its own line in the sand. Putnam’s county clerk is refusing to honor the newspaper’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to surrender similar records for publication, and the brouhaha is developing into a full-scale constitutional battle.

When The Journal News first released the information, residents were outraged. One commentator cited the “multiple foolishness” of such public disclosure that “is of no benefit to any law abiding citizen.” The criminal element could now not only learn at the press of a button which homes would likely not have armed protection but also had just gained the knowledge of thousands of potential targets where guns were available for the taking anytime thieves might ascertain that the occupants were not home.

“It was a very irresponsible thing for the newspaper to do,” said Larry Pratt, founder of Gun Owners of America, a pro-Second Amendment advocacy group.

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Greenwich, Connecticut realtor and writer Chris Fountain agreed and retaliated in similar fashion. On Christmas Eve, he published on his website a “Merry Christmas” message to Mrs. Hasson and every other Journal News staff member he could locate and expose for public consumption. He listed their home addresses and phone numbers, as well as that of the CEO of Gannett, who lives in Great Falls, Virginia. Gannett owns The Journal News. Ironically, this resulted in Journal News executives hiring armed guards for protection after they claimed they were the targets of threatening phone calls. (AMERICAN FREE PRESS’s calls went unanswered all weekend.)

That is not the end of the story, though. When the newspaper tried to get personal information about gun owners in neighboring Putnam County, Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant shot down the request and sided with gun owners. “I could not live with myself if one of our citizens faced a dangerous situation [by providing their private information],” he said. Assemblyman Steve Katz backed Sant, saying the newspaper had put people at risk “. . . for no cogent reason except that they can. . . . [T]hat is not acceptable.”

So far, Sant’s office has had over 325 phone calls supporting his position. Some have even suggested he run for governor.

One lawyer who prefers to remain unnamed says that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) routinely redacts FOIA information that, in their opinion, jeopardizes national security, informants, innocent people, etc. “So when push comes to shove and Sant loses the legal fight, which he will, all he need do is honor the court’s demands under the FOIA and submit the requested list but with every name redacted.”

When asked what could make him supply the list, Sant replied that he will take it all the way. “I am not backing down,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dana Safety Supply, a southeastern distributor of weapons and accessories to police departments and civilians, announced that it is ceasing sale of semi-automatic rifles to civilians. Oconee County, Georgia Sheriff Scott Barry told them he would no longer purchase their products for his department based on their decision to deny a citizen’s rights to legal weaponry.

“The Second Amendment . . . was drafted to guarantee that Americans could defend themselves not only from criminals but from an oppressive government,” said Barry.

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Pat Shannan is an AFP contributing editor and the author of several best-selling videos and books.

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