"Frequently, the work of journalists is not popular. One of our roles is to report publicly available information on timely issues, even when unpopular," Janet Hasson, president and publisher of The Journal News Media Group, said in an emailed statement. "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."
Roy Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based journalism think tank, said publishing the data was "too indiscriminate."
He, too, compared the maps to similar efforts involving sex-offender registries or lists of those arrested for driving under the influence, noting that such a move is usually done to indicate a serious problem that requires a neighbor or parent to maintain vigilance.
"You get the connotation that somehow there's something essentially wrong with this behavior," he said of the gun permit database.
"My predisposition is to support the journalism," Clark said. "I want to be persuaded that this story or this practice has some higher social purpose, but I can't find it."
Also common among the comments on the lohud.com were suggestions about suing the paper for violating permit-holders' privacy rights. Such a move would likely be unsuccessful.
"The media has no liability for publishing public information," said Edward Rudofsky, a First Amendment attorney at Zane and Rudofsky in New York. The issue does present a clash between First and Second amendment rights, he said, but in general, the law protects publishing public information unless the intent was to harm someone.