FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. – Gun owners across the country are outraged after a New York newspaper intentionally revealed the names and addresses of handgun permit holders.
"At first, I didn't believe what I was reading,” said Tom Verri.
Verri is a retired police officer who now lives in Fernandina Beach, but spent most of his career working in Westchester County, N.Y. Over the holidays, The Journal News decided to publish an online interactive map
revealing the names and addresses of anyone in Westchester or Rockland counties with a pistol permit.
"I find it hard to believe that nobody took the time to think that maybe a good portion of people on that list could possibly be in danger now, including police officers and their families,” Verri said.
The paper was able to obtain and then publish the personal information through a Freedom of Information Action public records request.
The paper's publisher, Janet Hasson, president of the Journal News Media Group, defended the decision in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.
“One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular. We knew publication of the database (as well as the accompanying article providing context) 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.
The newspaper also said it had wanted to publish even more information.
"We were surprised when we weren't able to obtain information on what kinds and how many weapons people in our market own," the newspaper said in a statement.
But the backlash has already begun with more than 2,000 mostly negative comments on the website by Wednesday night. Some pointed out the paper’s actions not only outs those with permits, but it also pinpoints the homes that are without protection.
Verri, who back in the 1980’s received a police honor award from this very newspaper, is so angry he says he’s ready to send the award back and he’s calling on others to do the same.
"Send them a message that you cannot give an award to a police officer and then put his life in danger when he's retired,” he said.
The online map does not include information about rifles or shotguns because those can be purchased without a permit. It also does not specify whether the permit holders included on the map actually own a weapon.
Here in Florida, according to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in 2006 a law went into effect that makes personal information pertaining to a concealed weapon or firearm license confidential. However, there are some exceptions to that exemption, including upon request by a law enforcement agency, the court, or with the express written consent of the applicant or licensee or their legally authorized representative.