Mapping guns in your town: is that okay?

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This screenshot shows the pistol permit holders in Westchester County, New York. The highest density of permit holders appears to be at the border with Bronx County, also known as the northern edge of New York City. 

An ABC News story I read through the Yahoo! News website tells about The Journal News, covering Westchester (Yonkers, New Rochelle) and Rockland (New City, Pomona) counties in New York, posting the names and addresses, on a map, of gun permit owners. The map contains:

…the addresses of all pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. Each dot represents an individual permit holder licensed to own a handgun — a pistol or revolver. The data does not include owners of long guns — rifles or shotguns — which can be purchased without a permit. Being included in this map does not mean the individual at a specific location owns a weapon, just that they are licensed to do so. [Notice that some dots are outside the county.]

This article is interesting to me for two reasons:

1. The article has hyperlinks to the (alleged?) Facebook profiles of two people who commented on The Journal News’s website. I predict this will only become more common. I don’t have a Facebook profile to link to.

2. The rationale to make a map seems reasonable: so people know where there are potentially guns in their neighborhood. It seems reasonable that people want to know where there are potential sources of danger and harm near them.

The names and addresses were obtained through “routine” (their words, not mine, but it is pretty routine and normal) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The quantity and types of guns are not considered to be public record, although this may not be true, according to the ABC News article.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • http://www.csbikes.org Robert Guico

    I would expect the density of the county to shoot way up the closer you get to NYC proper, so… I’m not sure if this map tells me anything new, except for presenting it in an interesting way.

  • derek_eder

    This map is quite intrusive. Listing gun owners’ names with their addresses is asking for trouble. My guess is these individuals didn’t expect their personal info to be publicly displayed when they registered their gun.

    As Robert mentioned, density goes up as you get closer to NYC. Its a little bit more work, but doing a choropleth map (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choropleth_map#Overview) of gun owners per 1,000 people would be much more informative than ‘dots on a map’.

    An ok start, but needs improvement.

    • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

      I think the map could serve the same purpose the publisher stated in excluding names (and maybe even addresses). An interested viewer could find their home and see that there are several dots near where they live and that is all they need to know.