US website ‘outs’ gun owners

GAWKER, the Manhattan-based gossip site, has posted a searchable list of licensed gun owners in New York City, following a move last month by a newspaper in nearby Westchester County to publish a map of pistol permit holders.
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The information was obtained from the New York Police Department via a Freedom of Information Law request in 2009, Gawker writer John Cook said yesterday in a posting on the blog. The 446-page list dates from 2½ years ago and contains names but not addresses.

The move thrusts Gawker into a growing debate over gun control and the privacy rights of firearms owners, sparked by the shooting deaths of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school on December 14.

It comes as Steve and Amber Mostyn, wealthy Texas trial attorneys, said that they are giving $US1 million to help start the gun-control advocacy group formed by former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly.

Steve Mostyn, who has a shooting range on his ranch in west Texas, is listed as treasurer of Ms Giffords’ new political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

‘‘It’s time to stop the [National Rifle Association] from bullying common sense out of the discussion,’’ Mr Mostyn said. ‘‘There are more options than just ‘guns or no guns’.’’

The White Plains, New York-based Journal News drew outcry last month when it published a map showing the names and addresses of handgun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties, seeking to better inform readers about firearms in their neighbourhoods.

Other community newspapers have criticised the Journal News for singling out people who have obtained permits legally and putting them at risk.

‘‘While the information is public record, what they’ve done is point out all these homes to criminals and burglars and also point out all those homes that don’t have weapons that they could target,’’ said William Pape, the editor and publisher of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American.

Unlike New York state, Connecticut prohibits the names of gun permits owners from being released. In New York, the names must be requested at the county level.

Last week a group of Rockland County lawmakers held a press conference vowing to make New York gun information confidential.

The elementary school shooting took place in Newtown, Connecticut, about 30 kilometres from the border with Westchester County.

In the wake of publishing the gun map, the Journal News has hired armed guards to protect itself against threats, according to the New York Times.

Gawker said in a separate post yesterday that its staff began receiving death threats after its gun list was posted.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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