There’s the old adage that says, ‘Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.’
For example, if you wanted to try to launch a bottle rocket out of your rear end, you can; no one is going to stop you.
But, as a responsible, level-headed individual, should you do it?
I think most of us would say, “No, that’s the dumbest idea ever. Why would one put his/her genitals at risk?”
Yet, despite this very logical and very obvious line of reasoning, YouTube is full of people who’ve attempted this feat.
Many of these individuals are copycats, who upon watching a video in which the sparks of a bottle rocket singe off someone’s pubic hair and scorch his/her taint, say, “Man, I have got to try that. That looks like a great idea.”
In other words, they’re idiots.
In a similar vein, we have The Journal News, a publication that serves the Lower Hudson Valley of New York, and its copycat Gawker, a Manhattan-based gossip site.
If you’re not familiar with the story, back in December, the Journal News thought it would be a wise idea to publish the names and addresses of handgun permit holders who live in Rockland county and Westchester county.
While not against the law – in New York State, handgun permit holder information is available to the public under the ‘Freedom of Information Act’ – the decision to create interactive maps containing such information was seen by many as an affront to the privacy of law-abiding gun owners.
Moreover, there was also the issue of public safety. One can’t deny that those maps make it easier for criminals and gun thieves to target citizens.
Nevertheless, The Journal News stood by their ‘expose-gun-owners initiative’ and began soliciting permit info from other counties, including Putnam. However, the Putnam County Clerk refused to forfeit the data.
“Since The Journal News has published this map, Putnam has received hundreds of calls from Putnam residents urging us not to release these records,” said Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant.
“There is the rule of law, and there is right and wrong and The Journal News is clearly wrong,” he continued. “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.”
In the meantime, The Journal News began receiving a wave of negative responses from concerned residents. Feeling that their safety was in jeopardy, The Journal News staff hired armed security (Yes, very ironic and hypocritical – indeed).
So, given the embattled status of The Journal News, folks over at Gawker thought it would be a good idea to follow suit and publish the names (and just the names, not the addresses) of concealed carry permit holders in New York City.
The author of the Gawker article made the point that this information had already been available on an obscure website for years, so re-publishing it – whether it’s Gawker or the Journal News – really doesn’t make a difference.
In any case, it’s clear that many of the Rockland County and Westchester County gun owners who are outraged at having their addresses plastered on the internet have had those addresses plastered on the internet for years without it causing a problem. And if anyone wanted to really stir some shit up, they’d grab those Who’s Packing databases and throw them up on Google Maps.
Obviously, this line of reasoning – like the ‘launch-bottle-rocket-out-of-butt’ reasoning – is flawed. As mentioned, just because you can do it (and others have done it) doesn’t mean you should do it.
Also, there’s the issue of journalistic and professional standards. The Journal News is not a crackpot website. It’s a regionally renowned publication with a relatively wide circulation. Therefore, it has an obligation do what’s in the best interest of the community it serves. By most accounts, aggregating handgun permit holder data on interactive maps violates that journalistic imperative.
(To put it another way, The Journal News publicizing that handgun data is the rough equivalent of a fire marshal doing the bottle rocket stunt).
Gawker, too, should know better. But, perhaps, the fame and attention that comes with making an idiot out of oneself is too alluring. I just hope no one gets burned.
UPDATE: Gawker is reporting that they’ve received several threats since the publication of the article.