NEW YORK TIMES: PAPER THAT PUT GUN PERMIT MAP ONLINE HIRES ARMED GUARDS

 

     

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    A newspaper based in White Plains that drew nationwide anger afterpublishing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders last month is being guarded by armed security personnel at two of its offices, the publisher said Wednesday.

    The increased security comes as the newspaper, The Journal News, has promised to forge ahead with plans to expand its interactive map of permit holders to include a third county in the suburbs of New York City, and local officials there have vowed to block the records’ release.

    The armed guards — hired from local private security companies — have been stationed in The Journal News’s headquarters and in a satellite office in West Nyack, N.Y., since last week, said Janet Hasson, the president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

    “The safety of my staff is my top priority,” Ms. Hasson said in a telephone interview.

    The newspaper prompted a national discussion and a torrent of rage online after it published an interactive map of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties on its Web site last month. The Journal News had gathered the information from public records after the school shooting in nearby Newtown, Conn.

    Ms. Hasson declined to elaborate on any specific threats to the newspaper’s staff, beyond saying that the permit map had precipitated the security precautions. She did not describe the number of guards or the guns they were carrying.

    But an editor at the West Nyack office told the local police that the newspaper had received “a large amount of negative correspondence” related to the publication of the map, according to a police report highlighted by The Rockland County Times on Tuesday. The police report said that e-mails received did not contain threats and that armed guards from a private security firm had not reported any problems at the office.

    Despite the anger at the newspaper’s employees — some have had their addresses mapped by bloggers in retaliation — Ms. Hasson said the newspaper would continue to seek permit information for Putnam County.

    But officials there, including the county clerk and a state senator, have said they intend to block the release of permit information.

    The senator, Greg Ball, a Republican who represents the area, lashed out at the “asinine editors” at The Journal News who, he said, “have gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law-abiding firearm owners throughout the region.”

    “I thank God that Putnam County has a clerk with the guts to stand up and draw the line here,” Senator Ball said. “This is clearly a violation of privacy and needs to be corrected immediately.”

    The county clerk, Dennis J. Sant, said he and other officials were meeting on Wednesday to discuss legal options for stopping the release of the permit information and would hold a news conference on Thursday.

    “When these laws were conceived, there was no social media, there was no Google maps,” he said.

    Mr. Sant said permit holders were “upstanding citizens” like retired police officers and doctors. “I can’t put these people in harm’s way like this,” he said.

    Ms. Hasson said that despite the hectic atmosphere and increased security at The Journal News offices, the newspaper would go to court if necessary to obtain the public records. “Right now they’re denying it,” she said of Putnam officials. “We’re conferring to see what the next steps are.”

    It was unclear whether the county officials had the authority to block the release. The permits are public records that were requested by the newspaper using the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

    Robert Freeman of the State Committee on Open Government said the officials would be breaking the law if they refused to release the records.

    The name and address of any handgun permit holder “shall be a public record,” he said, reading a section of New York State law. “In my opinion,” he added, “there is not a lot of room for interpretation.” (ARTICLE)