January 8, 2013

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The past three weeks have seen a rash of claims that gun permit holders in Rockland and Westchester counties in New York state are now in danger because the Journal News published their names and addresses.

To which, Gawker says nonsense. Today it publishes a list of licensed gun holders in New York City. John Cook of Gawker reports that he obtained the 446-page list via public records request in 2010, though the NYPD declined to issue addresses, which are required to be released under New York state law.

No matter: Cook reports that the names of 1.2 million gun permit holders across New York state — along with the addresses of more than 300,000 of them — have been “freely available online for more than two years,” thanks in part to this site. The upshot, in Cook’s view: “In any case, it’s clear that many of the Rockland County and Westchester County gun owners who are outraged at having their addresses plastered on the internet have had those addresses plastered on the internet for years without it causing a problem.”

Reality check: The site to which Gawker links is far less user-friendly than the presentation delivered by the Journal News, which put the names and addresses on an interactive map. Even so, Cook’s post represents a welcome dose of skepticism vis-a-vis much-tossed-about claims that the Journal News has suddenly placed many, many people in danger.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.