Posted On: January 18, 2013 by Steven D. Silverman

An Online Map to the Guns: Privacy, Gun Owners and Safety

http://www.silvermckenna.com/In a media-generating stunt, the Journal News, a suburban paper in Westchester County, NY, accessed state public gun permit records, compiled the names and addresses of gun owners in three New York Counties, and then posted an online map identifying and marking on the map all of the gun permit holders in each county, with their home addresses. (New York state law requires that the identity of gun permit holders be made public.) Wisely citing safety concerns, Putnam County officials, however, refused to release to the Journal News their gun permit holders’ personal information.

Although the Journal News correctly points out that New York law makes the information available public and the Journal News seems to suggest that its motives are altruistic and done in response to the horrific massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, there are serious and potentially catastrophic privacy and safety problems with the law and the newspaper’s actions. First, the law was written prior to social media and Google maps—which have enabled the identity and home address of thousands of gun owners to be made public to millions in a matter of seconds. Second, the Internet “gun map” creates an online roadmap to the location of thousands and thousands of guns—and that roadmap is available to every Tom, Dick and Harry who has access to the Internet (regardless of their mental status). Can’t get a gun because of a criminal conviction? Don’t worry… thanks to the Journal News, every criminal, every stalker, every disturbed individual now can easily locate you, your home and your gun. A little surveillance—no one’s home, a quick break and enter—and presto, you have a free gun. And stalkers now know whether the targeted victim has a gun to protect him or herself.

The invasion of privacy, the threat to law-abiding gun owners who obtained permits, and the online map of the location of every gun permit holder is unacceptable. The state has a right to record the information of who buys a gun, but such information should not be made public in the era of Google maps and social media.

Anne T. McKenna

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