U.S. News

NY newspaper hires armed guards after publishing gun permit names

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A suburban New York newspaper that ignited a furor by publishing the identities of thousands of residents who hold gun licenses has hired armed security to guard its staff after receiving an intimidating e-mail, a police report said.

Among a “large amount of negative correspondence” that White Plains, New York-based Journal News has received since publishing permit holders’ names was one e-mail in which the sender “wondered what would get in her mail next,” according to a Clarkstown, New York, police report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday.

The editor, Caryn McBride, told police the newspaper hired a private security company whose “employees are armed and will be on site during business hours,” the report said. The guards are protecting the newspaper’s staff and Rockland County offices in West Nyack, New York.

Police told McBride the e-mail did not contain an explicit threat that could compel authorities to take action against the sender. The menacing e-mail was reported to police on December 28.

Calls to the newspaper and the security firm, RGA Investigations, were not immediately returned.

The Journal News first published an interactive map listing the names and addresses of thousands of gun permit-holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, just north of New York City, on December 24.

The newspaper’s editors said they sought the information after the December 14 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that has sparked nationwide debate about gun control.

On Tuesday, authorities in nearby Putnam County said they will refuse to release names of permit-holders to the newspaper.

“There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and the Journal News is clearly wrong,” Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant said in a statement. “I could not live with myself if one Putnam pistol permit-holder was put in harm’s way, for the sole purpose of selling newspapers.”

State gun-owner groups have called for an advertising boycott of the newspaper until it takes the map and identities off its website.

The newspaper, owned by the Gannett Co, sought the information under the state’s Freedom of Information law. It says the identities are a matter of public record.

The Putnam County clerk said he has received hundreds of phone calls urging him not to give the information to the paper.

Putnam County officials are to appear on Thursday at a news conference declaring their intentions, along with state Sen. Greg Ball, a Patterson, New York, Republican who has said he will introduce legislation to keep permit information private except for access by police and prosecutors.

A similar bill he introduced failed in the state Assembly.

The newspaper’s editor and publisher have said they expected the publication of the information to be controversial.

“But we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” said Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group.

Additional reporting by Noreen O’Donnell; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Dan Whitcomb, David Gregorio and Dan Grebler