NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gun-owner groups called on Monday for an advertising boycott of a suburban New York newspaper that is under fire for publishing the names and addresses of pistol permit-holders in New York City suburbs.
A map published in the White Plains, New York-based Journal News last week listed thousands of permit-holders in Westchester and Rockland counties, just north of New York City.
The newspaper has said it is compiling yet more names of pistol permit-holders in suburban Putnam County that it intends to publish as well.
“This wanton act by the Journal News has put in harm’s way tens of thousands of lawful license-holders,” the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association said in a statement on Monday.
“This action can only be viewed as an attempt to intimidate and bully lawful, gun-owning citizens,” it said.
The Rifle & Pistol Association, joined by the Westchester County Firearm Owners Association, said it was urging its members to ask companies to stop advertising in The Journal News and its parent company, Gannett Co. Inc, until the map is removed from the newspaper’s website.
The gun owners say they will boycott companies that continue to advertise in the suburban newspaper.
“The Journal News has decided to blame the pistol license-holders in the counties that it serves for violent crime in the area and they refuse to take down the list with the searchable map,” said Jacob Rieper, vice president of legislative and political affairs for the Rifle & Pistol Association. “We have had people complaining about it almost non-stop.”
The Rifle & Pistol Association said it represents about 40,000 members statewide, including the Westchester group, and it listed 52 local and national companies that advertise with the newspaper.
“I don’t think I‘m doing anything wrong by simply advertising in a local newspaper,” said Eros Corpus, owner of Batteries Plus in Greenburgh, New York, a business on the boycott list.
“I‘m definitely caught in the middle. I don’t want to be caught in politics,” Corpus said.
The call for a boycott follows a week of complaints from outraged gun owners who besieged the newspaper’s website and social media sites with critical responses to the map, first published on December 24.
The map was published in response to the December 14 shooting deaths of 26 children and adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the newspaper’s editors said.
Critics said it endangered law-abiding gun enthusiasts, law enforcement officials, battered women and others. Some have retaliated by posting reporters’ and editors’ addresses and other personal information online.
The Journal News “exposed us and our families to possible harm,” said Scott Sommavilla, president of the Firearm Owners Association. “Some gun owners are showing them how the shoe fits on the other foot and how it feels.”
Some business owners on a list circulated by the gun enthusiast groups said they were upset.
At Croton Auto Park, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, owner Louis Giordano said he already got an email from a longtime customer threatening to stop buying cars from him.
Giordano said he has advertised in the newspaper for 20 years and disagreed strongly with publication of the map.
“I‘m conflicted with that,” he said. “This is going on in my mind today as we speak.”
Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in a statement last week the newspaper had expected publication of the permit-holders’ identities would be controversial.
“But we felt sharing information about gun permits in our area was important in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings,” she said.
No editors at the newspaper could be reached for comment on Monday.
Some 44,000 people were licensed to own pistols in the three counties, the newspaper said. Owners of rifles and shotguns do not need permits, the newspaper said.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Leslie Gevirtz