The controversial interactive map of gun-permit owners in two suburban New York City counties was taken off-line Friday after hundreds of complaints.
The Journal News, the newspaper that published the map insisted it was not removing the map due to the pressure, instead saying the database had most likely been viewed by those interested readers and that the information would become outdated over time.
“Our decision to do so is not a concession to critics that no value was served by the posting of the map in the first place,” Janet Hasson, publisher of the Gannett-owned newspaper, said in a letter posted on its website.
“On the contrary, we’ve heard from too many grateful community members to consider our decision to post information contained in the public record to have been a mistake.
“Nor is our decision made because we were intimidated by those who threatened the safety of our staffers,” she added. “We know our business is a controversial one, and we do not cower.”
Twenty-seven days ago, the White Plains, N.Y.,-based newspaper published the names and addresses of residents in Westchester and Rockland counties with gun permits in the wake of the Dec. 14 elementary school shootings in Connecticut.
The map sparked outrage from conservatives, gun advocates, and other groups from around the country, leading the newspaper to hire armed guards to protect staffers who had received threats to their safety.
Several bloggers responded by posting similar maps with the names and addresses of key Journal News staffers and executives.
One group, the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, called for a nationwide boycott of the paper's advertisers including Best Buy and CVS. The organization called the map a "wanton act" that "has put in harm's way tens of thousands of lawful license holders."
Even members of the statewide Affiliated Police Association said it would hold the newspaper accountable if any of its members were targeted because they were listed on the map.
At least two homes listed on the map have been burglarized — with thieves taking guns, gun boxes, and permits, among other items — though authorities have declined to immediately link the incidents to the interactive map.
Meanwhile, New York legislators responded earlier this week by passing laws that allow permit holders to request confidentiality and that impose a 120-day moratorium on the release of permit-holder data.
Saying that “hundreds of threats were made to Journal News staffers,” Hasson said, “In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, the Journal News thought the community should know where gun-permit holders in their community were, in part to give parents an opportunity make careful decisions about their children’s safety.
“The Journal News mapped the public database of permit holders, placing a dot on the address of every permit holder in Westchester and Rockland counties and providing the name and street address of each holder,” she continued. “The dots conveyed a powerful message: gun-permit holders are everywhere in our counties."
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