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NBC, CBS Report Outrage Over Newspaper's Gun Map; ABC Ignores

Both NBC and CBS on Thursday morning covered the outrage over a New York newspaper publishing the names and addresses of gun permit holders in two counties. ABC made no mention of the controversy, however.

"A suburban New York City newspaper is in the middle of a big controversy this morning after it put up online the names and addresses of everyone with a gun permit," reported CBS This Morning co-host Jeff Glor. "Call it a battle between the First and Second Amendments," said NBC News correspondent Katy Tur on the Today show.

Both the Today show and CBS This Morning aired full segments on the controversy. CBS even interviewed a Syracuse University journalism professor and a former NYPD deputy commissioner about the story, and both frowned upon the paper's decision to publish the details.

"In this case, I think that the newspaper has gone a little bit too far in terms of publishing information that actually stigmatizes people," Syracuse professor Hub Brown told CBS. "I think it's a bit disingenuous of the Journal News to say that they were just giving information out here. They were taking a position on guns."

Former NYPD Commissioner John Miller offered the law enforcement perspective. "Well the police chiefs look at this and say, look, 40 percent of the people who are holding these gun permits are either active or retired law enforcement. And these are people who have put people in jail for a long time, these are people who could be targets," he said.

The Journal News riled gun owners and bloggers with its story, which prompted a backlash that climaxed with a blogger publishing the personal information of the paper's reporters and editors.

A transcript of the segments, which aired on December 27, are as follows:

CBS
CBS THIS MORNING
12/27/12
[7:30 a.m. EST]

JEFF GLOR: A suburban New York City newspaper is in the middle of a big controversy this morning after it put up online the names and addresses of everyone with a gun permit.
 
REBECCA JARVIS: The article was a response to the Newtown school shootings, and it quickly spread around the internet. As Jim Axelrod reports, critics say it's too much information.

(Video Clip)

JIM AXELROD: Driving through this typical Westchester neighborhood, you can tell a lot. Who's got a new car, who just finished their addition, who's got the best Christmas ornaments. Now, thanks to this website you also know who might have a handgun. It began as an 1,800-word article in this past Sunday's edition of the Journal News, a newspaper covering three counties just north of New York City. Included with the article, an interactive map revealing the names and addresses of thousands of people who are licensed to own a handgun in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. Hub Brown teaches journalism at Syracuse University.

HUB BROWN, professor, Syracuse University: Mapping-based journalism is a big trend right now. But we have to be very, very careful about the types of information that we're going to publish here. In this case, I think that the newspaper has gone a little bit too far in terms of publishing information that actually stigmatizes people.

AXELROD: Hundreds have weighed in on the Journal's web page, the majority expressing outrage. Some even posted what they say are the home addresses and home phone numbers of the paper's staff. CBS News tried to talk with several individuals identified by the Journal News as gun licensed holders, but they all declined to comment. Following the Newtown shootings in Connecticut, reporters at the Journal obtained these names and addresses by filing what's called a Freedom of Information Act. Last night, no one at the paper would speak to CBS News, and instead issued this statement, saying that, quote, "sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings."

BROWN: I think it's a bit disingenuous of the Journal News to say that they were just giving information out here. They were taking a position on guns.
 
AXELROD: At the White Plains, New York train station, reactions were mixed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I definitely think it's a beneficial tool to have.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They ought to publish the criminals' names who have committed gun violence.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: My sister has guns in her house and I never let my kids go over there.

AXELROD: Controversy or not, the Journal says it's not finished and promises to publish similar information from a third New York county once it's compiled. Hub Brown thinks that might make a bad situation worse.

BROWN: It's not that they can't publish these kinds of things. The question is what do you publish at what time and how does it help your readers? And I don't know if this does.

AXELROD:: For CBS This Morning, Jim Axelrod, New York.

(End Video Clip)

GLOR: Senior correspondent John Miller is a former NYPD deputy commissioner. John, good morning.

JOHN MILLER: Good morning Jeff. And Jarvis.

GLOR: Last name only. Putting that information online, who does that help?

MILLER: I spent the day on the phone yesterday with the law enforcement community up there. And what we gather is the police chiefs don't like it. Lou Falco in Rockland county, the elected sheriff, he doesn't like it. And as we learned from the comments in the newspaper, the gun owners certainly don't like it. So that leaves a segment of the reading public who might find it interesting.

JARVIS: So what do they not like about it, law enforcement specifically?

MILLER: Well the police chiefs look at this and say, look, 40 percent of the people who are holding these gun permits are either active or retired law enforcement. And these are people who have put people in jail for a long time, these are people who could be targets. These are people who might be the prison guards. In Ossining, the corrections officers who some inmate might be looking for their home address, and now it's just point and click. The other thing is that 8,000 – I mean if you just take Rockland County, 8,000 either active or retired NYPD officers live there. So within the law enforcement community, they say in the law of unintended consequences, you're giving people a map to our names and home addresses that's searchable.

GLOR: In addition to law enforcement, and that effect, one of the criticisms here is that potential robbers are going to know who has guns and who aren't, so they know which homes to target. If you're law enforcement looking at all the homes, not just where former law enforcement live and work, how does this make the job more difficult for them?

MILLER: This is one of the things, you know I talked to the sheriffs and the chiefs about. And they said, you know, for a robber it's a double-edged sword. If you're going to burglarize that home, you run the risk that there's a homeowner there with a weapon. On the other hand, if you're a robber looking to burglarize a home where you might steal guns, now you have a map. Now the average crackhead probably doesn't read the Journal The average meth user, they get up at noon, they drink grape soda and eat Cheetos and try to figure out who to knock off on the corner. But when you look at maybe the teenager on that street or the troubled youth, who actually knows the patterns in that neighborhood, who's home, who's not. Now they can look where are the guns on my block?

GLOR: But really quickly though, this doesn't tell you exactly where the guns are. This only tells you who has the permits to actually own the guns.

MILLER: You show me somebody who jumped through the hoops to get a permit to have a pistol, and I'll show you someone who has a gun.

JARVIS: John Miller, great point. Thanks, John.

(...)

NBC
TODAY
12/27/12
7:33 a.m. EST

WILLIE GEIST: A suburban New York newspaper is making national headlines this morning for a controversial story on the gun control debate. NBC's Katie Tur is here to explain. Katie, good morning.

KATY TUR, NBC News: Good morning, Willie. Call it a battle between the First and Second Amendments. The paper published an interactive map that lists every pistol license in New York's Westchester and Rockland counties. Just north of New York City, these suburbs boast of space, good schools, and the allure of privacy. But now that privacy is a little harder to come by, at least if you own a gun.

(Video Clip)

TUR: (voice-over) Scroll over each red dot, and you'll find the name and address of every handgun owner in Rockland and Westchester County.  The local paper Journal News obtained the data under the Freedom of Information law in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. But this exercise of free speech has thousands up in arms on social media, claiming among other things, an invasion of privacy. One Facebook user writes, the paper is "treating legal gun owners like criminals." Another says "This is the most disgusting act of journalism ever. You guys must be desperate to sell your trashy paper." And one even went as far as publishing the names and addresses of the Journal's editors and reporters. Since the Newtown tragedy, guns have dominated the national discussion.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Both sides are prepared for the biggest battle over gun control in 20 years.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (I) Mayor of New York City: 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, executive vice president, National Rifle Association: If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.

TUR: In a statement, the Journal News says it has been a part of that ongoing dialogue, and that's why it was necessary to post the map, writing in part that "our readers are understandably interested to know about guns in their neighborhoods." John, who asked that we not use his last name, legally owns more than one gun and was listed on the site.

JOHN: As gun owners, licensed legal gun owners, it puts us in the same light as illegal people.

TUR: He says he's now more concerned about the neighbors, since potential robbers know that his home is protected by a gun.

JOHN: Basically, it will give you a sheet map of, hey, I'm not going to go to this house and rob this house because they have guns, they can defend themselves. Let's go target this house, let's break into this house. And these people's lives that are more in jeopardy.

TUR: Others have called for the paper to be prosecuted, likening the map to similar-looking sex offender maps. Robert Freeman is an expert in New York state law. He disagrees with that comparison.

ROBERT FREEMAN: The fact is that licenses are issued in order to tell the world that individuals are qualified to engage in a particular activity.

TUR: Qualified to engage in it, now for all your neighbors to see.

(End Video Clip)

TUR: And it's important to note that not everyone on the map owns a gun, it is just a list of everyone who has applied for and received a gun permit in the past. In fact, some of those permits belong to people who have since died, meaning just because you see a certain address it doesn't necessarily mean there is a gun there. Willie?

GEIST: A lot of privacy questions there. Katy Tur, thanks so much.

-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center