It seems that we're seeing more and more media bias these days, causing some members of the fourth estate to make the news rather than report on it.

The tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. two weeks ago and in Webster, N.Y. last Sunday have raised the gun control debate to an urgent level but the issue should be examined without the media fanning the flames with its own judgments.

Gun purchases and weapons permits have risen dramatically since the Newtown tragedy as proponents feel new gun restrictions may be looming and affect their Second Amendment rights.

Automatic weapons in the hands of mentally unstable individuals with no concept for the value of human life have been at the root of the violence in both the New York and Connecticut cases. These root causes must be examined in any gun control debate.

When our founding fathers were writing the second amendment, the fire power and weaponry at the time was limited to flintlock rifles and pistols, so they had no idea there would be future automatic weapons capable of spitting out hundreds of rounds a minute.

While addressing automatic weapons should be on the table of any gun debate, what we do not need is a liberal press targeting innocent gun owners. A suburban New York newspaper's decision to publish information on legal gun owners in its readership area has many questioning the editorial judgment of the paper itself. The Journal News, part of the Gannett newspaper chain, decided to run an interactive map containing the names and addresses of thousands of residents in Rockland and West Chester counties.

The paper says it was legally obtained through public records under the Freedom of Information Act. Many believe the newspaper's decision simply targets all gun owners and that is dangerous. By publishing the names and addresses, would-be robbers gain information on where the gun owners are located as well as what neighborhoods are vulnerable and which ones the criminals should avoid.

In a story on the paper's website, the publisher stated that while residents have the right to own guns with a permit, they also have a right to access public information. The paper also requested information on the number and types of guns owned by permit holders, but officials in the county clerks offices stated that those specifics were not public record.

The decision to provide the names of persons with legal gun permit information has been tried before, by The Roanoke Times in 2007, and last year by The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn. In protest, some groups responded by revealing the home addresses of editors.

When The Journal News released its information, bloggers countered by publishing what they believe to be the names and home addresses of the Gannett CEO, the paper's publisher, its editor, and the story's reporter. One critic on the newspaper's website said that the article only placed more people in danger.

"Do you fools realize that you also made a map for criminals to use to find homes to rob that have no guns in them to protect themselves? What a bunch of liberal boobs you all are," he wrote.

Paul Piperato, the Rockland county clerk, actually supported the criticism, stating that publishing the names would expose those officials who are judges, policemen, retired policemen, FBI agents and have permits. He said once the public is allowed to see where they live, it puts them in harm's way.

Media outlets like The Journal News need to be aware that the large majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens who love America and all the freedoms and privileges provided citizens in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Publishing the names of all gun owners only exposes them to ridicule, abuse and possible harm.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]