The New York City-area newspaper that incited controversy in publishing an interactive map of gun permit holders while advocating for strict gun control laws has absorbed the backlash with a touch of irony: it reportedly hired armed security guards at its office due to thousands of angry emails and phone calls.
The Rockland County bureau of The Journal News, serving the suburbs just north of New York City, has hired a local security company, according to a police report obtained by the Rockland County Times, a local competitor newspaper. RGA Investigations security detail will be protecting The Journal News’ office through at least January 2, the newspaper reports.
A Dec. 28 police report says since the Journal News published the map, a surge of “negative correspondence” had made its employees worry for their safety and led to the decision of hiring armed security, according to the Times. The editor, Caryn A. McBride, has reportedly filed two police reports because of perceived threats, such as an email in which the writer who “wondered what McBride would get in her mail now.” Police have not taken action, saying the email “did not constitute an offense.”
The Journal News sparked outrage among gun owners and privacy advocates after publishing the interactive Google map featuring the names and addresses of local firearms owners last month — an action that critics consider an unjustifiable act of invasion of privacy. But the backlash was in the form of more than just the two emails. A state gun-rights group called for an advertising boycott and a Republican state senator has proposed legislation that would make the personal information of gun permit holders private. Even the Rockland County Times took its own swing at the paper, publishing the names and addresses of the newspaper staff. But the irony is unmistakeable in the fact that The Journal News has now retained an armed security firm.
The newspaper created the map of pistol owners in its coverage areas of Westchester and Rockland Counties (with Putnam County refusing its request) using information obtained under the Freedom of Information act, which states that public records, such as the identities of gun permit holders, are open to the public, unless restricted by statute. “People are concerned about who owns guns and how many of them there are in their neighborhoods,” said the News editor and vice president CynDee Royle a few days after the controversial map was published. “Our Freedom of Information request also sought specifics on how many and what types of weapons people owned. That portion of the request was denied.” The newspaper said it published the map, titled “Where are the gun permits in your neighborhood,” to illustrate the prevalence of gun ownership after the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., where 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 27 people and later himself with two semi-automatic pistols and an assault rifle.
The map immediately drew outcry from critics, who accuse the newspaper of implying that gun owners should be shamed like sex offenders by publishing their contact information. Some pointed out that robbers could now avoid the houses of gun owners and target the ones without guns. In defense of its decision, the newspaper acknowledged that this was not the first time it published the identities of those who hold gun permits. But thanks to the article’s virality on social media sites, the reactions it received this time — more than 2,000 comments — far eclipsed a similar article it published in 2006.