Gawker Publishes the Names of People Who Own Guns in New York City

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A growing number of news organization have responded to the recent incidents of gun violence by publishing lists from public records of the names and — sometimes the addresses — of gun owners in communities in the Northeast.

The Westchester County Journal News published names and addresses of gun owners in suburban New York. Gawker has done the same for people in New York City, publishing their names, but not their addresses.

It's raised some concerns among those gun owners, some of whom are upset that their information is being published, though it is technically public information that anyone can access.

A listener on Facebook wrote:

Criminals will know which house pose a threat and which ones don't. Criminals would also know which house to rob if they need access to an illegally obtained gun. Blaming violence on guns is like blaming obesity on forks and spoons.

Randy Cohen was the writer of The Ethicist column for The New York Times Magazine for 12 years. He's also the author of "Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything."


Randy Cohen

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross

Comments [5]

Shyonelung from Healdsburg, ca

Why are gun owners feeling shamed? Chances are they bought their guns for self-defense. Presumibly the easy-to-obtain public knowledge that they own a gun or guns serves as a pretty good deterrant to "criminals". Law-abiding gun owners shouldn't worry about being a target - they have their guns properly stored and locked up. Right?

Jan. 10 2013 07:17 AM

This interview showed Randy Cohen to be the worst kind of elitist, arrogant bigot. It's no wonder that New York elitists of his ilk are held in such low regard by so many. Equating gun ownership with a public health risk, is unfounded, uwarranted and unwelcome. If a person doesn't like guns, then they shouldn't buy any. It's called freedom of choice.

Seriously Randy, is it really "ethical" for you to decide which of my rights you want to prevent me from exercising? Based on your interview, I question your judgement as to what actually constitutes ethical behavior. In your little mind, ethical behavior is behavior with which you agree, unethical behavior is behavior with which you disagree. Sounds a bit Hitlerian to me...

Jan. 09 2013 07:20 PM
Dave from Detroit, Michigan

This segment absolutely exemplifies the widespread demonization of law-abiding American gun owners that is raging all throughout our country right now. I am a vegan, pro-choice, LGBT rights supporter, & yes, I am also a proud & responsible American gun-owner. So this means I should feel ashamed, & means that I am a "source of danger" to those around me? Shame on Randy Cohen for narrow mindedly painting us all with the same twisted brush.

Jan. 09 2013 05:15 PM
Christine from Westchester

Very disappointing segment that allows a self-proclaimed "ethicist" to call it okay to for this sort of listing of gun owners (law abiding people who had all sorts of background checks done) so they can be "shamed." Why the need to shame law abiding citizens. The shame is on Mr. Cohen for using this program for his own interests and not sticking to facts. What was done was legal (the records are public) but stupid and unwarranted. And now to add insult that these people should be shamed. Bad form. And bad form on the part of Hockenberry for letting that go. I've lost any good opinion of Cohen.

Jan. 09 2013 03:50 PM

The common refrain for self-professed "reasonable gun law" advocates is that licensing and registration of gun owners is something that only absolutist gun rights radicals would oppose.

Now, Randy Cohen, acting as an avatar for the gun-banning absolutists of the left, has given the nation a very good reason to be suspicious of even the "reasonable gun law" measures like licensing and registration. Cohen thinks that it is a public health policy issue to publicly identify all firearms owners. Because they pose a public health risk.

It is no longer "crazy" for gun rights advocates to fear that politicians who think like Randy Cohen would move from registration, to licensing, to public databases, to restriction, to confiscation of firearms. Every step of the way, there are simple public policy arguments being made. New York made the policy decision to require registration. New York made the policy decision to make those records public. New York made the policy decision to include private residence information part of the public record keeping. There is nothnig that is magical or sacrosanct about these decisions. New York's considered public policy and public records rules have allowed an anti-gun newspaper to endanger the lives and property of registered gun owners by publishing their names and home addresses in a map-searchable datatbase.

We make it a public policy matter to keep the identity of HIV-positive persons private, notwithstanding their possible danger to the larger public. Indeed, this very episode of The Takeaway mentioned that problem in the population of homeless youth.

Too bad you didn't ask Randy Cohen about the ethics of our public policy decisions in that sphere.

Personally, what I find so remarkable about Randy Cohen is that quite unlike most real experts in social sciences who find complexity and nuance in the details of their subject matters, Randy Cohen (a "writer and humorist") always manages to step in it by finding easy absolutes. He seems to enjoy taking up hard positions (virtually always to the left-wing of any political dimension) and blandly asserting how there can be no other way. In his now-defunct NYT column, it was always left-wing policies as a matter of "ethics."

Today was a classic. Randy Cohen, and the New York licensing/regulation law, have really advanced the gun debate in the precise way that they never would have wanted; by turning gun moderates into strong pro-gun and anti-registration advocates by showing just how far the arrogant left likes pushing its will.

It should also be noted that Cohen is now engaged in promoting his own public radio program, on which he has interviewed John Hockenberry. Nice, how all of that works.

Jan. 09 2013 01:02 PM

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