The Gawker/Christine Quinn Gun Owner Database Debacle


We were a bit afraid that this would become a “thing.”

Two weeks ago, we reported on the Journal News, a newspaper based in White Plains, published the names and addresses of all the gun owners in and around New York City. As a result, readers and media folk alike flipped out, leading one blogger to publish the same information, except this time about the staff of the newspaper. Because two privacy infringements make a right.

Well, it looks like it happened again. Yesterday, Gawker’s John Cook responded to a comment made by the notorious Ann Coulter, who asked to see the documents of all the “rich liberals” in New York that own guns, in the only reasonable way possible: by publishing a 446-page document (1.2 million people are listed) of just that. However, the document strictly states their names and gun license status – it came into Cook’s possession through a Freedom of Information request a few years ago.

Naturally, this is when we tell you that a lot of people are pissed again. The NRA responding harshly is, of course, no surprise: that’s what a gun owners’ lobby is there for. But City Council Speaker Christine Quinn? That’s a different story.

“I think the rules for getting a gun need to be tougher, but if you meet the rules, and you get a license in the legal way, and you have that license, I don’t think that should be printed in the newspaper,” Quinn told WCBS 880.

The view echoes the opinions held by readers of the Journal News. Much in line with her boss, Quinn stands for stricter gun control measures and praised Cuomo’s State of the State address on Wednesday. However, according to her, publishing private information of subjects for simply owning a gun goes beyond civil behavior: “I’m not sure what we gain from putting that kind of information out there,” she continued.

Besides one-upping Ann Coulter (a worthwhile task, nonetheless), she has a point. We may live in a post-WikiLeaks world but, seriously, gun owners are not the same as sexual offenders. Even though fearmongering is for the ignorant, as we said two weeks ago, the possibility of blowback from having this information on the Web proliferates by controversy, even if Gawker’s database only has names and no addresses.

But, unlike Chris Fountain, the blogger that countered Journal News with another database, Quinn is much less likely to hone the Internet’s prying capabilities. Hopefully, a leaked Gawker database is not in the near future. But, on the Web, nothing is absolutely certain, right?