The Conservative Response to Outing Legal Gun Owners
As Christmas was approaching, one newspaper, the Journal News of White Plains, New York, decided to take on Scrooge's personality of mean-spiritedness. They printed an interactive map that included the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. Each red dot represented an individual gun owner. They were able to obtain this information because New York state law allows it to be part of the public record. American Thinker was able to interview a few of these gun owners about how they felt about being "outed" by this newspaper.
In clicking randomly on the red dots, American Thinker found that gun owners make up a wide range of people. Some gun owners contacted did not want to talk, some did not even know they had been outed, some spoke but did not want their name published, and others spoke on the record. There was the same general sentiment by all, even those who did not want to be interviewed: outrage, because they had obtained their guns legally.
One person, a retired police officer, told American Thinker that the Journal News has put his family and himself in danger from the criminals he has arrested, because they now know where he lives. He wondered if the newspaper had even thought about the negative consequences.
Another person preferred to remain anonymous because of her profession. She classifies herself as a liberal Democrat except on the gun issue, where she referred to herself as a conservative. After finding out from a friend that her name had been published, she felt angry, intruded on, and invaded. "Now I have to worry if someone will try to rob us to get our guns. Owning a gun was important, since my husband always owned rifles and wanted a handgun. If there was to be a gun in my home, I felt I should know how to use it. We went through the training course and the permit application together. In fact, to gain membership in a shooting club, we had to take a competency and accuracy test. I truly believe the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Banning guns will not solve the problem about killings. If guns are not available, people will use more dangerous weapons like bombs." She went on to say that she does believe in some kind of gun control, such as competency tests, since people have to do that to get a driver's license.
Another person proudly stated, "I am not embarrassed to say I own guns. I think it was completely irresponsible and dangerous for the newspaper to do what they did. It is an attempt to stigmatize gun owners to make us into pariahs and outcasts. Just think if all the gun owners banded together and voted as a bloc -- how much clout we could have. This was an invasion of my privacy. They have made me a target of some liberal nuts. They better hope no one gets killed or robbed because of their irresponsibility, or they could have numerous lawsuits on their hands. At the minimum, some nut could demonstrate in front of my house, key my car, or egg my house. If a magic wand is waved and all the guns in this country are taken away, some lunatic can buy a twenty-pound petroleum canister and light a match." This man classifies himself as an independent and thinks that there should be some gun control laws, such as strong background checks and re-testing people to make sure they know how to fire a gun after a certain age.
Fred Vanca, a registered independent, commented, "I have been a hunter all my life and have a rifle as well as a shotgun. Gun owners are not dangerous to society. It served no purpose for the paper to do this. The horrific tragedy of the children being killed did not even happen with a handgun. Look at the statistics: those states with right-to-carry laws are much safer. Maybe Congress should be working on making a privacy law instead of gun control laws. This information obtained should be private, just like people's medical records."
Bob Kelly was very irate. He called the Journal News "a rag that will do anything to sell a newspaper. It is one of the most liberal newspapers in the state. What was their purpose? It might be a public record, but the Journal News just made it easy for the criminals and lunatics. As a retired police officer, I got a gun because there were numerous death threats against my family while I was working. Believe me, I know, if a criminal can't get a gun legally, he will get it illegally. And if someone is intent on killing, he doesn't need guns; he could use a piece of glass. What are you going to do? Outlaw bottles? Look at prisons where they file toothbrushes to kill people." Kelly further noted that as a conservative, he strongly believes that the more legal gun owners there are, the less crimes there will be. As far as gun control, he would like to see armor-piercing ammunition outlawed everywhere, and anyone who kills someone with a gun should never be paroled.
Someone who is a political independent explained that he chose to get a gun for his family's safety. He relayed a story where in his rural neighborhood, which is about a half-hour out of New York City, while driving home, he came across a woman bloodied. He later found out that she had been kidnapped at gunpoint. After that incident, "my wife and I decided we needed to be responsible for our own safety by obtaining pistols. Let me explain to you what we went through to get a gun permit. First, if you are not an upstanding citizen, you will not get a permit, and even if you are, there is no guarantee. To get a permit, you have to wait nine to twelve months, which in my opinion is way too long. There are three purposes allowed to request a permit, and self-defense is not one of them." Since he believes that the presence of a firearm in a home may deter visits from criminals, he alleges that the newspaper put people without guns more at risk, because the article also outed, by a process of elimination, those non-gun owners in town.
After interviewing these innocent people, American Thinker was able to contact three editors of the Journal News to request an interview. Two out of the three were rude; one hung up after referring to the statement from the publisher; and another responded, "That is it. I am not wasting my time with you. No means no." The third took my name and phone number and said he will be getting back to me if he decided to do the interview. I am not holding my breath.
Here is the statement:
Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) would be controversial, but we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.
This statement combined with the Journal's basic no-interview comments comes off a lot like the bully who picks on those who cannot fight back -- yet who cowers when confronted. They are hiding behind a statement that is callous, smug, and empty. It is very interesting that they are not willing to explain their actions, nor stand by what they did. Maybe it is because their phone numbers, addresses, Facebook, and Twitter accounts were outed by a New York blogger, Christopher Fountain. They must have received so many hits that they have now suspended their social media accounts, and many of the their phone numbers have been disconnected.
Another interesting point is that the Journal News in the article put an editor's note: "Journal News reporter Dwight R. Worley (the article's author) owns a Smith & Wesson 686 Magnum and has a residence permit in New York City for that weapon since February 2011." Of course, they did not state how he was able to get a permit, since it is very difficult to be granted one, and why he did not out himself on the map or in the editor's note.
Here is a suggestion for the Journal News' next article: out those people who actually have committed a crime. But that would not fit in with the liberal agenda, which now consists of using this tragedy as a tool to have strict gun control laws. Hopefully the readers will call this newspaper (914-694-9300) and voice their displeasure at the attempt to intimidate and turn the legal gun owners into the bad guys.