27/12/2012 08:09 GMT

New York Newspaper The Journal Sparks Outcry After Publishing Gun Owners Details Online

A New York newspaper has provoked controversy after publishing the names and addresses of people with pistol licences in two upstate counties.

The Journal News published the information online in an interactive Google map after submitting Freedom of Information requests for handgun permit holders in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam. As Putnam is still putting together its records it could not immediately provide the information.

However the move has been criticised in the wake of escalating debate surrounding gun control, prompted by the Sandy Hook shooting.


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The paper has been accused of sensationalising gun ownership with the article's headline The gun owner next door: What you don't know about the weapons in your neighborhood coming under scrutiny in the comments. The article has been shared more than 4,000 times.

The writer has been criticised for making gun owners "look like paedophiles", and putting the permit holders on a register similar to sex offenders. Many commenters have said they would prefer to know where the unlicensed pistols are held, as these people are likely to be more dangerous. Others have called for a list of those with psychiatric health problems.

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The Journal News has been criticised for publishing the details

Some comments underneath the article criticise the newspaper for making those homes without guns more vulnerable to attack, with Alle Bebkes writing: "Great way for criminals to know where the unarmed sitting ducks are. It is worth buying a new gun every 4-5 years. This way the bad guys will know that my home is one with definite resistance."

The Journal News has defended its right to publish the details, arguing that the information is public record. The journalist who wrote the article lives in the counties in question, and has published his own name and address alongside those of his neighbours.

The map does not include rifle or shotgun owners, as in America you do not need a licence to own this type of firearm.

Youth Director John Thompson, who runs programmes to help counsel young people against gun violence, told the Journal: “I would love to know if someone next to me had guns. It makes me safer to know so I can deal with that. I might not choose to live there.”

However the backlash has been so great some Twitter users are publishing names and addresses of all the journalists who work at the Journal news. It is not clear what they intend their addresses to be used for.

The rights to gun ownership contained in the second amendment have been publicly debate since the Newtown massacre of 20 elementary school pupils and six adults by Adam Lanza, who then turned the gun on himself .

The killing is the latest in a series of an epidemic of gun violence over the last three decades in the US, including 62 mass shooting incidents since 1982.

The vast majority of weapons used have been obtained legally by the killers.

The National Rifle Association has called for an armed police guard in every single school following the Sandy Hook shootings.

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the America's largest gun lobby the National Rifle Association, who told a press conference in Washington: "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun."

He added armed guards in schools are "the only line of defence that's tested and proven to work."

US President Barack Obama has asked his deputy Joe Biden to lead a team tasked with delivering "concrete" gun control proposals by January, in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Obama said the task force will include members of the cabinet and outside organisations in a mission that must report back by January, in order that the "complex" issue is not swept under the carpet.